COMMENT: Conference Board banking on resource jobs

OTTAWA – In a report released today, the Conference Board of Canada is optimistic about the job outlook in the resource sector, […]
OTTAWA – In a report released today, the Conference Board of Canada is optimistic about the job outlook in the resource sector, calling it “a gold mine for employment opportunities.” I don’t know about a gold mine, but we industry observers have known for a long time that mining faces a labour shortage. The industry has been unable to attract skilled labour for a decade. Add to that the Baby Boomer generation that will be retiring over the next 10 years (this author included), and the shortage begins to be dire. The Conference Board estimates that about $342 billion of new investment in major resource projects in Canada will generate more than 65,000 job openings in the resource sector over the next decade. Adds the Board, “The majority of the job openings will come from the retirement of workers – more so than the expansion of the sector.” Four trades are in highest demand – truck drivers, heavy equipment operators, underground production and development crews, and managers at all levels. Together these skills will be needed to fill a quarter of the 65,000 vacancies. The Conference Board goes on to say, “The resource sector is a key private sector employer of aboriginal people and job openings in the industry provide quality employment opportunities for aboriginal job seekers. Aboriginal people make up a greater share of the mining industry workforce than any other industry in Canada. In fact, more than 30,000 aboriginal people across the country have a job in the mining, energy, or forestry industry. Not only is the mining industry an important employer for aboriginal people, it also offers the highest compensation for Aboriginal workers. In 2010, aboriginal people working full time in the mining industry earned about $78,000 annually. “The majority of new job openings will require formal training and education. With enough lead time, training programs can be put in place to improve aboriginal participation in the Canadian workforce. Aboriginal leaders and policy makers will need to plan ahead to take full advantage of the upcoming employment opportunities in the resource sector,” the Board added. Individual mining companies have footed the bill for a wide number of programs aimed at giving local communities skills to get high paying jobs at individual operations. More aboriginal training programs are being created at colleges in northern Canada, often in partnership with miners. Besides individual employment opportunities, the mining sector is a generous supporter of aboriginal entrepreneurship. We all – miners, colleges, governments – must work together to provide Canadians with the skills to take advantage of the good jobs the resource sector will offer. And if that means doing more to help the historically disadvantaged catch up and prosper, let us put our minds to it and make it happen. The report, From Oil to Diamonds: Employment Opportunities for the Aboriginal Workforce, is available via The Conference Board’s e-Library, Sign in for free.


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