CANADIAN MINING PERSPECTIVES: Crystal-gazing at the future mining workforce

Renowned demographer David Foot, author of the best selling book "Boom, Bust & Echo", provided miners with some gui...
Renowned demographer David Foot, author of the best selling book "Boom, Bust & Echo", provided miners with some guidance in building their workforces of the future. He made a lengthy interactive presentation on "Profiting from the Demographic Shift in the 21st Century" at the Ontario Mining Association conference "Demographics, Global Markets and the Future Workforce" held in mid-June. On the national level, mining is looking for an estimated 92,000 new employees over the next decade.

Foot, a professor of economics at the University of Toronto, is a demographer who has gained celebrity status. He has changed the way people think about population trends. His presentation helped the mineral audience better understand the impact change and population growth will have on their industry, their company and their organizations.

Along with showing demographic profiles of Canada, Ontario and specific mining communities in the provinceSudbury, Timmins, North Bay, Windsor, Red Lake, Marathonhe shared his research on the demographic profiles of specific employment positions in the sector such as mining engineers, geological engineers, drillers and blasters, mine labourers and mine supervisors. Foot suggested that the mining industry in Canada has about a five-year window demographically to do some creative hiring and build for its future.

"There is a paucity of women in mining and it is in your best interest to get more women in the industry," Foot said. "There is a company involved in the Alberta oil sands that only hires women drivers and it has found that the equipment lasts 35% longer and I think in some cases women will treat the trucks and equipment better than their kids." The latest census data shows that females comprise 46.9% of the Canadian workforce but only 13.1% of the mining workforce.

"The young are the champions of technology and they always have been," he added. "You need to communicate with young people the way they want to be communicated with, not the way you want to communicate with them. Flexibility and openness are essential." Some of his suggestions included more strategic recruiting and education to raise the level of awareness of the career paths mining can make available to people. He believes the high-tech nature of the industry and its rewarding pay scales are pluses that appeal to the next generation of workers.

While Foot felt that reaching out for a better gender balance could assist the sector in dealing with its human resource issues, another area that is demographically favourable for prospective employees is First Nations. "The First Nation population is generally younger and it is growing at a faster rate," he said. "You should be in there actively making sure they are educated but you need a whole different approach to recruiting First Nations. While North American society puts the individual before society, First Nations tend to think of the collective before the individual. You have to get to the teenagers."

(This item was originally written for the Ontario Mining Association's Newsletter. Visit the website at


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