Back in the class
Diamond program returns

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 29/99) - Building on its first-year success, Aurora College is once again offering an introductory course on diamonds.

Last year 19 of the program's 20 students graduated and 14 of those 19 were interested in employment in the secondary diamond industry, according to Aurora College's co-ordinator of mine training, Bob Ward.

"Sirius Diamonds hired 10 of them right away and they've since hired a few more, so probably 12 of the 14 have secured employment in the industry eight months after the completion of the program," Ward said.

"So the program is definitely a success."

Ward said the program offers a solid overview of the secondary diamond industry and explains the economics of diamonds including the importance of diamonds both to Canada and the NWT.

"The actual practical work the students do is learning how polished diamonds are graded and evaluated so they learn about the intricacies of individual polished diamonds, how diamonds are cut and polished to obtain maximum yield," he said.

The course is 16 weeks, of which 13 weeks are spent learning from various instructors from the Diamond High Council in Antwerp who visit Yellowknife temporarily.

"I took marketing at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) in Calgary last year," said current student Tho Huynh.

"I figured I would come back take this course and then get my foot in the door with a diamond company and maybe work in the marketing department."

Student Jon Antoine said he was not sure what he wanted to do before he enrolled in the course.

"This way I'll have some experience and will be able to apply and work at either BHP or Diavik. There's going to be lots of job opportunities," he said.

And student Chinta Unka is still not sure what aspect of the industry he will go into.

But he has experience from working for the exploration company, Kennecott Canada Exploration Inc. doing geophysics work around Lac de Gras.

Next year, the number of jobs in the industry is set to expand.

Not only will there be jobs at Sirius Diamonds but two other cutting and polishing facilities are slated to be set up: one affiliated with Deton'Cho Diamonds and the other, called Cutting Works, which is a joint venture between the Dogrib and the Arslanian family, a well-known European family involved in the industry.

"We're hoping for a cutting and polishing facility by next year -- by April for sure," said Deton'Cho president Darrell Beaulieu.

"I think it's a good idea for people to take the courses at Aurora College."

Beaulieu said though many people might already have degrees in business administration, accounting or marketing, it shows dedication to learn more about diamonds specifically.

"Maybe this is an industry or a sector where they can apply their specific skills but it's important to learn about the sector also and I think that's where the introduction to diamonds course comes in," he said.