Read about the internship experiences of these UA mining and geological engineering students:
Peter and Paul Mather are brothers following their passions and pursuing their mining engineering degrees. One is oriented to business; the other to research. Both are driven in their dedication to mining sustainability. Together, they are firing on all eight, all the time.
Peter and Paul’s story.
Editor’s note: This series of stories, profiling mining and geological engineering interns, is a part of the New Face of Mining celebration, in which the University of Arizona is commemorating the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Arizona School of Mines.
UA mining engineering students are gearing up to get real. As finals wrap, many will turn their attention to jobs and internships. For seniors graduating, internships likely helped them get that $65,000 job they are walking into. For those not yet graduating, internships will play a huge role in defining who they are, inside and outside the classroom.
Every UA mining engineering student does at least one internship, and many have completed two or three internships before they graduate. The interns’ projects are usually in line with what they are learning in their courses, but the jobs go beyond what can be taught in the classroom. Interns work on real projects that have real value for mining companies, sometimes even resulting in multimillion-dollar proposals.
At Stantec Consulting in Phoenix last summer, Peter Mather modeled a mine’s stopes, or underground rooms from which ore is excavated, to help validate that the mine had 10-plus years of resource left, then he presented results of the multimillion-dollar project to the firm’s client. This summer in Hawaii, Jamie Mills will help integrate new technology that she proposed to the president of an aggregate mining company last summer. And, Danielle Taran, who worked on a $32 million reclamation project for Luminant, is seeing strip-mined land in Texas put back to its original contour, just the way she planned.
“My job, taking into consideration the cost of everything,” said Taran, “was to figure out how to fill up the open space, where to get the dirt, and what equipment would be best to use.”
Like a lode running rich with minerals, certain sentiments run through the veins of all UA mining and geological engineering students. They feel fortunate to have found something they love to do; they are dedicated to their practice and to environmentally sustainable mining methods; and they appreciate having invaluable opportunities to be well prepared for the work world.
“I was working with senior engineers and professional geologists with 30 years of experience,” said Mather of his consulting job with Stantec, a position typically reserved for more seasoned engineers.
Mining engineering students also have no doubt that they will land good jobs doing what they love. They are entering an industry in which a large percentage of the engineering workforce is nearing retirement.
“More than half of our workforce has been here for 25 years or more, and many of our senior engineering positions require 10 to 15 years of experience,” said Cydney Walling, talent acquisition manager for Luminant, a subsidiary of Future Energy Holdings. Luminant, a Texas power generation company, hires about 60 interns each summer from five universities and pays them between $3,000 and $3,900 a month plus a $1,000 bonus for return interns and relocation assistance if needed.
“It is important to hire people early in their careers, train and develop them, and give them opportunities to grow into leadership roles,” she said.
Jennifer Durrer, a staffing analyst at Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, echoed the industry’s need to invest in a future workforce ready to fill the knowledge gap.
“We want to develop students so when they graduate they have a vast skill set; they are knowledgeable, and they have some practical experience within their degree field,” she said.
The investment pays off, for the students and the company. In a recent group of UA senior mining interns at Freeport-McMoRan, all six had job offers. Freeport-McMoRan employs upwards of 230 interns from universities throughout North America-- about a quarter of whom are drawn predominantly from UA mining, metallurgy and geology -- at 15 sites throughout the Southwest.
While mining companies are filling their pipelines with much-needed engineering recruits, students are gaining a frame of reference for what they are learning in the classroom and solidifying career plans.
“Internships help us filter out and focus on what we want to do,” said Mather, a junior with a passion for software and design who already has senior-level management in his sights.
Companies adopt students for a summer, or two or three, nurture them, then deliver the students back to the University more mature in their approach to learning and more ready for the work world, said Mary Poulton, head of mining and geological engineering and director of the UA Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources.
“Students come back from their first internship at the end of the summer so much more intellectually mature,” she said. “And from the companies’ perspective, internship programs help them build a workforce of capable young engineers who can take on more responsibility because they have had that period of work.”