Collaborative curriculum: Rock Star Jill Tsolinas

Tsolinas’ role is dynamic as each day brings new projects to oversee and new groups to lead to synergy and success.

by Jillian Clark
Jill Tsolinas loves that her current role as executive director of BC CTEM brings together her two passions: mining and education. This shows her headshot.

Jill Tsolinas loves that her current role as executive director of BC CTEM brings together her two passions: mining and education. — Photo courtesy Jill Tsolinas

Over the years, Jill Tsolinas has combined her two loves into one role that she is endlessly passionate about: mining and education. “I started my career in the research side of mining,” she said. She was a research manager, oversaw training programs and even had the opportunity to design a master’s program. “As my career evolved, sometimes my job would focus more on the mining industry; other times it realigned research and mining,” she said.

Joining the collaborative community of BC CTEM

Now, as the executive director of the British Columbia Centre of Training Excellence in Mining (BC CTEM), her passions have fallen into place. “I intertwined my love for mining and my determination for lifelong learning,” she said. The BC CTEM is a virtual hub hosted by Northwest Community College. The BC CTEM facilitates training opportunities and connects individuals within the mining industry, as well as those hoping to join the community. “Now my job focuses on how to evolve training to best meet the needs of the mining industry and the job seekers,” Tsolinas said.

Her role is dynamic. Each day brings new tasks, new projects to oversee, new groups to lead to synergy and success. She focuses on the overall organization of BC CTEM by engaging with partners, participants and community members. Tsolinas and her team evaluate curriculums, tweaking where necessary to align with industry needs—one example of training evolution includes delivery methods. BC CTEM’s programs are targeted to either new workers or current workers who require upgrades to work with new technology.

Upcoming BC CTEM programs

BC CTEM projects and programs take many forms, especially now that some training can be delivered online. Tsolinas is excited that two programs she helped create will come to fruition this fall.

The first is called Collaborative Mining Pathways. This program results in a technology diploma. Students will start in their regional home communities for the first year. In their second year, they will come together at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) for a collaborative educational experience.

Students are training with simulators.

Students train with simulators. — Photo courtesy Jill Tsolinas

The second program includes an underground miner curriculum. There has never been a provincial standard for underground mining. This program will be entry level and modular to include specific skills necessary at different types of underground mine sites.

Collaboration and synergy breed success

Tsolinas values communication and collaboration. She aims to “run the organization efficiently, while being as collaborative as possible.” She tries to begin each project with a conversation between individuals and companies involved. “Personally, I am very passionate about cultivating synergy and discovering common ground,” she said. “I believe that if you have both, it breeds success.”

Jill Tsolinas attends an MOU signing by five post-secondary institutions.

Jill Tsolinas attends an MOU signing by five post-secondary institutions. — Photo courtesy Jill Tsolinas

Finding common ground is often necessary within Tsolinas’ role. Without common ground, it’s nearly impossible for groups with different backgrounds to come together for a project. “Then we find synergy that allows a project to spring forward,” she said. Her reward at the end of each work day is seeing different communities come together within BC CTEM projects—a forward, collective movement.

“Ironically, that’s also the biggest challenge,” Tsolinas said of creating a collaborative environment. “It means we have to work through challenges and not just walk away from things because they haven’t been done before.” Through an open mind and a willingness or the courage to try, individuals involved in BC CTEM’s projects find success.

A space for everyone in mining

Many people forget that the mining industry includes hundreds of careers: underground mining, geology, mathematics, business, communications. “There are a lot of unique and diverse opportunities for everyone to find a role,” Tsolinas said.

Another often overlooked fact is that the mining industry also fuels green technology. Without the minerals and the coals, sustainable tools and products could not be built. Awareness of this fact opens doors for even more possibilities in mining.

Tsolinas found her own success by following her passion for mining, her love of collaboration and her appreciation for ongoing education. “It’s interesting to look back on your career and see the path it took. You don’t see that when you’re in the midst,” she said. “The reason why I am here is because of the passion I have for lifelong learning and the mining industry.”

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