In this space in the August issue, I discussed education and training in the tunneling industry, specifically some of the themes that came out of a roundtable discussion we held on that topic at NAT. As a follow up, in this issue we take a look at how the Colorado School of Mines is helping to meet the needs of industry by establishing a Center of Excellence in Underground Construction and Tunneling, and a degree program – a first in the country.
Of course, the School of Mines has been active in the tunneling arena for some time. I became aware of the school and its involvement in tunneling through Prof. Levent Ozdemir, who taught at the school from 1997-2009. Levent is well known throughout the world as an expert in mechanical excavation and taught short courses and edited proceedings for industry conferences including RETC and NAT.
More recently, however, the school began ramping up its efforts in underground construction and training – first with the establishment of the center, and then the degree program. Prof. Mike Mooney joined the staff in 2010 and serves as director of the center. In addition, Mines has added staff with recognized tunneling industry expects including Priscilla Nelson, who was hired to head up the Mining Department in 2013, and Ray Henn, a consultant with Brierley Associates and Adjunct Professor with more than 40 years of industry experience, including serving a stint as president of the AUA (predecessor to UCA of SME).
Mooney estimates that there are about 20-25 students at the graduate level who will be pursuing careers in the tunneling industry. Additionally, the school is on track to issues its first degrees in Underground Construction and Tunneling at the end of the current semester. Exciting times indeed. (For the full article, see page 14 of the Ocober 2014 issue).
Incidently, Levent is still active within the School of Mines’ Office of Special Programs and Continuing Education. He serves as course director for three short courses held annually on the school’s Golden, Colorado, campus – the Microtunneling Short Course (with Tim Coss), Ground Improvement Short Course and Tunneling Short Course (with Ray Henn). The Microtunneling Short Course marked its 20th anniversary in 1994 and paved the way for the Tunneling Short Course (2008) and Ground Improvement in Underground Construction and Mining (2013). (Information on these and other courses can be found at www.csmspace.com.)
At the most recent course held in September, there was standing room only in the Green Center classroom where the courses are held. It was great to see a new dynamic among course attendees, namely younger professionals learning about the industry, CSM students taking advantage of the opportunity to hear from leading experts from across the globe, and a mix of contractors, engineers and owners. (For a news report, see page 10.)
The issue of education and training has been discussed for many years. And while there is still a long way to go, it appears that we are taking a step in the right direction.