by Ryan Kiedrowski

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A highly successful pre-employment program geared toward the mining industry is making big waves on one local First Nation. The Canadian Institute of Mining awarded the inaugural CIM Indigenous Partnership Award to Cowessess First Nation and Morris Interactive.

The program from Morris Interactive—Digital Transformation in Potash Mining—is eight weeks in duration, giving participants what they need to confidently enter the potash industry.

“I’m trying to be humble about it, but it is quite an honour to be picked as the very first awarded in this area,” said Barry Sparvier, Director of Employment at Cowessess First Nation. “We’re honoured to be to be a part of Morris Interactive’s pilot project to start with, and then the success that it’s had with ourselves and others—it’s just unbelievable! I went to the awards presentation in Vancouver on Monday night, and it really made me realize what we’ve done; what we’ve participated in. It’s progress within the reconciliation of our nation and partnerships with institutes that can help our people. That’s what it’s proven to me.”

The DTiPM program ran as a pilot on Cowessess FN back in 2022 in partnership with Morris Interactive and The Mosaic Company. Since then, two of the five cohorts run by DTiPM have been on Cowessess FN, and Sparvier noted that of the 18 participants in total, 15 are actively working in the potash industry. The next intake at Cowessess FN will begin in late August with seats for 12 people.

“The industry is changing, evolving,” Sparvier told the World-Spectator. “With this program, I think it’s getting these students ready for the evolution of the industry, too.”

A huge attraction to the program is more than just landing a job, it’s setting the stage for a lucrative career with training close to home that could mean getting a job in Esterhazy or Rocanville.

“We have eight weeks of classroom setting, and we have different speakers from the industry coming in,” Sparvier explained, noting that former students of the program and current employees in the potash industry comprise some of those guests. In fact, Sparvier noted his son—an engineer with Mosaic for 12 years—is one of those speakers.

“He’s so excited about his job. He really spreads the excitement to the students,” Sparvier continued. “The last two weeks are actually done underground at Mosaic in different areas. Just to give them a taste of it and to show them what it’s going to be like.”

The DTiPM program boasts an 83 per cent success rate in linking graduates with employment or further education, and the future looks bright thanks to a million-dollar investment from Mosaic—cementing five more years.

(PHOTO -From left: Rob Knibbs, Barry Sparvier, Benjamin Williamson, Mathew Cey, and a representative from CIM who presented the awards at the CIM Connect 2024 Awards Gala whre the Cowessess employment program was recognized. Ryan Kiedrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.)