DOING SOME DIGGING – Into your past

If you're reading this News Alert, you probably already work in the mining industry. As you know, these are the bes...
If you're reading this News Alert, you probably already work in the mining industry. As you know, these are the best of times for exploration, for mining, for equipment and service supply, for commodities and for mining investors. However, since the average age of our readers is about half a century, most of you have experienced a layoff, some downtime, or at least witnessed a staff reduction in your office, plant or mine.

Somewhere in your murky past, you took the high-risk decision to depend for your livelihood on an industry that has not always been employee-friendly. You probably didn't know that when you were a student (what do you really know when you're a student?), but you know it now.

Students these days are very bright. They have a challenging curriculum to get through, which includes a whole lot more computer skills, environmental studies and management skills than when you or I were studying, and probably more communication skills (including language instruction other than English, I would hope). They are also risk-takers: they know they may/will have to travel outside Canada over their careers, chasing minerals possibly to some highly questionable parts of the world.

What they probably don't know is how to get their first job, their first practical summer experience in their chosen field, that will prove to future employers they have what it takes. It's easy for us oldies to figure out which are the likeliest companies to be hiring, and what skills they're looking for. We have the leisure time to read the mining news and listen to the shop talk and rumourswhy, it's part of our job to know what's going on. Not so for students. It's quite possible that their professors are out of touch with industry; they may be of little help to students landing that first job.

Cast your mind back. When you were at college or university, were you recruited by a head hunter for your future possibilities? Not unless you were the top student in the class. More likely you poured over the job boards, hoping for something that would give you real experience, and even pay you something. If you were lucky, one of the many resumes you sent out struck paydirt before the end of April, so you knew what you were doing for the summer. Someone was willing to take a chance on you. And with that lucky first break, you were able to step into your career.

You would think that today things would be entirely different. We are told repeatedly that the industry to desperately seeking young people to fill the jobs of the many who will be retiring in the next five to ten years. I was therefore astounded to hear of a well-qualified engineering student who can't find a job, despite her best efforts. The fact that she is female is not a factor; it could happen to guys as well.

This young woman is finishing up second year mineral engineering at University of Toronto. She's very involved, as class rep to the Engineering Faculty and the Engineering Society on campus, and has had great work experiences to date, but none of them in mining. She has applied for every job that she has heard about and sent resumes to every company that she knowsgathered from talking to people at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada convention in March, cruising online job boards, and responding to the mining jobs that the school's administration has directed to students. She has sent out 20-25 resumes, but only heard back from twoin one case they were hiring employee-related students and in another they were giving preference to an aboriginal person.

In frustration, she sent out a plea for help in early April to the Toronto-based Women in Mining Network. She got a good response, hearing back from six people with suggestions for fixing up the resume, and names of individuals in mining company HR departments who might be able to help. She appreciates the help, but is still looking for work. "Everyone I talk to about this is really amazed that I don't have a job yet," she told me in an interview in mid-April.

I'm sure that no one is trying is discourage this student, or the many others who are trying their best to find work. Not every kid up to his eyeballs with schoolwork would take the initiative that she has, in going to the PDAC convention, or approaching a network of professionals for help. Makes you wonder how many shrinking violets might be turned off continuing their geology, mining or metallurgy studies because the job experience that they require seems to be beyond their grasp.

If the industry truly wants to have employees for the future, it has to help connect today's students and recent grads (and even the not-so-recent grads) with jobs. Respond to every enquiry for work, whether the answer is Yes or No. Pass resumes along to other companies' HR departments and to associations that might post them in places where employers will see them. Do whatever it takes to mentor, train and pay all the young people who have an interest in the industry, so they will stay with it.


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