The mining industry is struggling with a severe shortfall in qualified workers to explore, develop and operate the next generation of mines. Spurred by continuing high commodity prices, the industry has work for 80,000 more people than it expects to find. The shortage is driving labour costs, and the bottom line of most developments, higher and higher.
Now the GOVERNMENT OF CANADA has stepped in. It has made a $2.5-million commitment to the MINING INDUSTRY HUMAN RESOURCES COUNCIL (MiHR) to support its efforts to attract, retain and educate skilled workers in the mining industry. The funding is expected to address the mine worker shortage in the next decade through MiHRs three-year Mining Attraction, Recruitment and Retention Strategy (MARS) project to attract new recruits. The funding announcement was made on March 6, 2007, at the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention.
There are many rewarding and exciting career opportunities just waiting to be realized in todays mining industry, said Paul Hebert, executive director of MiHR. We face the challenge of filling up to 80,000 jobs within the next ten years and will succeed only if we can attract more people, including women, Aboriginals and new Canadians. MARS mission is to help industry find the right people with the right skills at the right time.
The mining industry expects a shortage of skilled workers in a variety of occupations, from mining engineers, geologists and trades people to miners and support workers. MARS will introduce Canadians to potential careers in the industry through its website, www.acareerinmining.ca. The MARS program also offers hands-on classroom resources linked to provincial curriculum, a summer employment strategy for students and industry-led outreach activities such as a speakers bureau with a toolkit and best practices guidebook for employers to facilitate recruitment and retention. Created and driven by MiHR, MARS marks the first time a co-ordinated government and industry effort has been made to tackle this serious shortage in the mining industry.
MARS project activities also include researching and disseminating best practices in recruiting and retaining non-traditional sources of labour such as Aboriginal people, women, new Canadians, retirees and expatriates of the mining industry. Potential new workers will benefit from training and mentoring programs designed to keep entrants engaged in the industry for the long term.
The MARS project will also include a pan-Canadian mentorship program, web-based marketing campaign targeting Canadian youth and career path and knowledge capture videos.
We applaud the federal commitment because a broad, co-ordinated approach is necessary to find or train new mineral industry workers. The $2.5-million number is substantial, and undoubtedly there will be further funding from industry. But lets not sit back and think the problem is solved. Other industries, too, are competing for the same skilled people. Mining will have to work long and hard to make people choose careers in the industry.