The Chilean government recently selected Pennsylvania State University’s mining technology program, one of the few curricula of its kind in the country to provide technical training to its young mining professionals.
The associate program offered on its Fayette campus prepares students for supervisory roles in the mining industry by blending basic science and math with courses in management and mining technology. About three dozen students graduate each year, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported.
Officials from Chile’s ministry of education visited Fayette County to further discuss the details of the plan, which still require their government’s final approval. But both sides expressed optimism that a final agreement would be reached in time for the application period to open in August.
If selections are made by January, school officials said, Chilean students could be on campus as early as fall 2016.
The agreement also represents the first mining technology venture into the United States by Técnicos para Chile, or Technicians for Chile, which has a footprint in the United States and eight other countries. The Chilean government-funded study abroad program covers most travel and school-related expenses so about 300 Chilean students each year can travel to foreign schools for technical study in areas like information technology, food, health care and business.
As part of the technical program expansion, Chilean officials are also exploring a partnership with the agriculture program at California State Polytechnic University Pomona.
“The idea is for people to improve their careers and go back to Chile and contribute,” Jaime Restini Escalonilla, legal coordinator for the Chilean ministry of education, told The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Bob Lowery, a Penn State mining technology instructor, said the state’s long history of innovation in the coal mining industry attracted the Chileans’ attention. Skills learned in mining coal, he said, can be translated to the extraction of minerals like copper and lithium, which are much more abundant in Chile.
“All mining operations have some common facets,” Lowery said. “Even though we do not mine copper in this area, we have some of those common facets, like safety, management skills, environment slash community issues, along with the education they’ll get in the classroom.”
To that end, program organizers are courting companies in the Pittsburgh region that could be a good fit for mining students with in a variety of mining specializations.