SUDBURY -- Thanks to a $1.3 million investment from a federally-funded agency, NORCAT in Sudbury will soon be home to a new high-tech training program for the mining industry.

The Future Skills Centre is providing the money for a new initiative to develop learning programs to train miners, incorporating simulators and virtual reality.

NORCAT, a technology and innovation centre, will be used "to develop, test, and deploy a series of technology-enabled blended learning programs that will transform how the Canadian mining industry trains and educates its workforce," NORCAT said in a news release Monday.

"The 18-month project, led by NORCAT, involves a number of local partners in the Canadian mining industry including Vale Canada, Technica Mining, and Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations, a Glencore Company.

"With the investment from the Future Skills Centre, NORCAT is creating interactive and experiential technology-enabled training programs that are meaningful, scalable, and cost effective."

The programs include integrating eLearning, virtual reality, equipment simulation, "and in-the-field competency validation on select pieces of mining equipment," the release said.

Training on each piece of equipment will be about two weeks, with a focus on operational safety, efficiency, and productivity.

“By working with our partners to develop, integrate, and deploy technology-enabled blended-learning programs, we are excited about the collective role we will all play to redefine the new world of training to support the new world of work in mining and other skilled labour industries across Canada,” NORCAT CEO Don Duval is quoted as saying in the release.

“We look forward to working with the Future Skills Centre and appreciate the support to engage, educate, and strengthen Canada’s future mining workforce by ensuring workers have the skills, competencies, and confidence to do their job both safely and productively.”

Pedro Barata, executive director of the Future Skills Centre, said they are investing in places such as NORCAT where "industries can find pathways to address chronic skills shortages and provide innovative and radical approaches to training, learning to build capacity and fill future skills gaps.

“Integrating online learning, virtual reality, equipment simulation training, and in-the-field competency validation could transform how skilled labour industries like mining develop, engage, and deploy training and development programs to fill their skills gaps,” Barata said in the news release.

The Future Skills Centre – Centre des Compétences Futures, is funded by the federal government's Future Skills Program.

It is described in the release as "a forward-thinking research centre focused on how to best prepare Canadians today for workforce opportunities of the future."