Turning a degree in mining engineering into a career at Vanscoy Potash

Published: Mar 14, 2024

image-20240314084319-1As an Engineer-in-Training, Kayla Horswood works in the Continuous Improvement (CI) department at Nutrien’s Vanscoy Potash facility. While her day-to-day work includes analyzing process performance, identifying opportunities for improvement, and proposing and implementing changes to increase the efficiency and safety of our operations, she’s also looking for opportunities to pay forward the support she’s received in growing her career.

What does your job involve as an Engineer-in-Training on the Continuous Improvement team?

When I first joined the team, I headed a study to identify the major causes of downtime in the bolting process and opportunities to reduce inefficiencies. Since then, I’ve been working mostly in a data science role. I analyze the incredible amount of data collected at our site, then use it to find trends and provide conclusions about the way our time is used at Vanscoy to identify areas of potential improvement.

How did you come to work at Nutrien?

I was a full-time student at Queen’s University and looking to take a break from my studies to get some industry experience. As an active member of the Indigenous Futures in Engineering group (formerly AAE), I heard about the Nutrien Indigenous Internship Program (IIP) student job openings. I applied for a position that really interested me, went through the interview process, and soon found myself headed to Saskatoon at the onset of a global pandemic…

I completed my 16-month internship at Nutrien’s Cory Potash facility, where I had the pleasure of working with some of the most helpful, knowledgeable, and supportive peers and learned more than I initially thought possible in that timeframe. I returned for a four-month summer term at Cory before my final year of school, and upon graduating, I accepted a temporary IIP role in Mine Engineering at Vanscoy Potash, eventually moving into the CI department in a permanent role.

Did you always see yourself on the career path you're on now?

No, I never would have imagined myself on the career path I have taken! I was passionate about math and science, but not knowing much about what these subjects could lead to in the “real world,” I was determined to become a teacher.

Over time I became more interested in developing my technical skills and began to switch gears towards engineering. I had trouble deciding which type of engineering to pursue, but eventually, chose mining engineering because I believed it would give me a well-rounded education in all disciplines, and the small class size would provide me with more personalized learning opportunities. I was right, and now I couldn’t imagine working in any other industry.

How do you think programs (e.g., IIP, mentorship, scholarships, etc.) designed to support women and people from other underrepresented groups help people to succeed and benefit the company overall? 

These programs are critical to ensuring people from underrepresented groups get the opportunity to learn and excel. A number of these programs were instrumental in my success here at Nutrien, and I can honestly say I would not be here without them.

Indigenous youth in particular face systemic disadvantages surrounding access to education and, statistically, face greater adversity in their personal lives because of generational trauma.  The Indigenous admissions policy supported my acceptance into the Queen’s engineering program, and I don’t believe I would have succeeded in my degree without their support systems. Nutrien’s IIP program led to my roles here, and I doubt I would have as much success in my positions without the unwavering support of peers in IIP and female role models within the network that made a point of encouraging me wherever possible.

I believe I have skills and talents that will undoubtedly continue to benefit my site and Nutrien at large, but I and other young professionals often need support getting a foot in the door. I’m keen to pay this forward and continue to support the next wave of incoming professionals at Nutrien. 

What is a fun fact about you that people may not know?  

I have seven siblings back in Ontario – I’m the oldest of the bunch! While I have appreciated the opportunity to spread my wings and put down new roots in Saskatchewan, I always look forward to the hectic household when I make the trip back.