(On Oct. 24, 2007, federal MINISTER OF HUMAN RESOURCES AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT Monte Solberg addressed participants at the launch of the Human Resources Forum for the Canadian Mining Industry. Following are excepts from his speech.)
The economy is firing on all cylinders and our unemployment is at a 33-year low. But with this abundance comes many challenges – the most significant of which is a labour and skills shortage across the country. With a projected shortage of 80,000 workers in your sector over the next 10 years, we know that having enough skilled workers is a serious problem.
We’ve started to take action. For instance, we recently committed over $2.5 million to the Mining Industry Human Resources Council to strengthen its ability to address long-term human resource issues. One element of the strategy is geared to helping your industry find new workers in currently underrepresented groups such as Aboriginal people, women, and new Canadians.
Mining is one of the largest private sector employers of Aboriginal Canadians.
The potential for that today is better than it has ever been the unemployment rate among Aboriginal people is an unacceptably high 19%. That’s why in our last federal budget our government announced that we would more than double the size of the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership over five years – a program that really has produced results.
We will do more. As the Throne Speech noted, our government will continue to foster partnerships that help Aboriginal people get the skills and training to take advantage of these job prospects in the North and across Canada.
Another valuable initiative being developed by the Council is the Mining Industry Workforce Network, a comprehensive labour market information system for the mining industry. This network will provide targeted labour market information from national, regional and jurisdictional perspectives to help your industry plan for its human resources needs.
An especially interesting project is the Mining Labour Market Transition Initiative. I know that your sector Council has undertaken an assessment of, and action plan to address, the barriers and opportunities to mitigate short- and medium-term labour demand in the mining sector.
Your goal is to engage skilled workers from sectors in decline to fill labour gaps in the mining industry. I understand you are in the process of determining possible pilots and worksites where you could assess how skilled workers from specific occupations within forestry could transition to the mining sector.
At the end of the day, whether we talk about labour mobility, absorbing workers from sectors that are downsizing or integrating underrepresented groups, industry and labour need to be front and centre in this process.
While governments can be supportive – for instance, by offering tax breaks for the trades and financial incentives to employers to take on more apprentices – it is ultimately up to businesses to hire and train the prospective workers they need. That’s why it’s so important that we get together, as we are today at this forum, to talk about the strengths we can bring to the table.
I have every confidence that, as we continue to work in close partnership, we will keep Canada’s mining sector at the forefront of the global economy.