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Thyssen Mining

Thyssen Gift Boosts Confidence

A recent Thyssen Mining donation is enhancing program safety while also boosting student confidence.

Thyssen Mining started in Saskatchewan’s potash industry in the early 1960s. It has since grown into a full-service underground mining contractor operating across North America and is a key player in the Mudjatik Thyssen Mining Joint Venture with northern First Nations and Métis communities. Throughout its history, Thyssen has been a firm believer in supporting local communities. This philosophy is the driving force behind a recent donation to Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

Thyssen was switching to fire-retardant (FR) rated coveralls for its employees due to new safety regulations. The switch left Dave Speerbrecker, Thyssen’s General Manager of Support Services, with a large supply of new but unusable coveralls.

“We didn’t want to just toss them out—they’re brand new, made for us by SaskAbilities—so we looked around to see if there was someone else who could use them,” Speerbrecker says. “We looked at Sask Polytech because we have several mechanics who’ve taken their training there.  We’ve talked safety with instructors over the years and have developed an informal relationship over the years. We also know that students are on budgets and can’t always afford to buy PPE.”

Speerbrecker, also known as “Safety Dave” due to his previous job as director of safety at Thyssen, added all of that together and made the decision to get in touch with Sask Polytech about the donation.

The gift of approximately 625 pairs of safety coveralls with an estimated value of over $53,600 was welcome news to Brenda Suru, Associate Dean of the School of Mining, Energy and Manufacturing and the School of Natural Resources and Built Environment.

“A number of our programs require coveralls as PPE for shop/field training, and not having the extra out-of-pocket cost is huge for our students,” Suru says. “We’ve used approximately 250 pairs in our Welding, Machinist, Industrial Mechanics, Electronic Systems Engineering Technology, Environmental Engineering Technology, Civil Engineering Technologies, Power Engineering Technology and Mechanical Engineering Technology programs as well as in our Natural Resources programs in Prince Albert and for the Eco Car Applied Research team.”

The remaining coveralls were offered to Brittany Grimsdale, Program Head of the Women in Trades and Technology (WITT) program, who eagerly accepted them.

“We conduct outreach programs to expose under-represented populations—Indigenous, newcomers, single parents, people facing financial barriers to training—to opportunities in skilled trades and technologies. We also provide on campus support for students pursuing non-traditional trades. For a lot of these students, money is tight. You’re expected to provide your own PPE, and if you can’t afford it, you use whatever is available,” Grimsdale says. “These coveralls really fill a need.”

Grimsdale says the coveralls are also being used in two federally funded applied certificate welding programs in Saskatoon and Prince Albert, both aimed at under-represented populations. Students completing the program graduate with a level 1 welding certificate. Tuition is free, but students need to supply their own protective clothing.

“These students are trying to build a better future, but they’re often struggling financially. To get a job in welding, they need proper equipment—including coveralls. Thanks to Thyssen Mining’s donation, we can give them a pair of brand-new coveralls. And since we have various sizes to choose from, they can usually find a pair that fits,” Grimsdale says.

According to Grimsdale, the psychological benefit of having the right gear is just as important. “When you start an apprenticeship or a new job with the right equipment, it boosts your self-confidence. We see it when our students walk into the shop wearing the proper gear—you can feel the excitement, the sense that they belong, that they’re ready for the next step in their career journey.”

“It’s difficult to put a price on someone’s sense of belonging. It’s about having what you need to succeed,” Grimsdale says. “Not one of our current students could afford to buy new coveralls on their own, so the coveralls donated by Thyssen are just another way we can set them up for success.”

“Safety” Dave Speerbrecker is happy knowing Thyssen’s donation of coveralls is making such an impact.  “It’s good to know we’re giving students a bit of a hand up, because we know that it will get paid forward as they move through life. We’re always looking for ways to support local communities, and we appreciate that Sask Polytech is there when communities need them.”

Suru speaks for students, faculty and staff across Sask Polytech when she says, “A huge thank you to Thyssen Mining for their very generous donation of the coveralls. We appreciate their continued support of our programs and students.”