The future of mining: MiHR discusses employment opportunities

Ryan Montpellier, executive director of MiHR, discusses mining as a viable career path for future generations.

A woman, wearing a hardhat, takes a water sample from a stream.

MiHR predicts 90,000 jobs will need to be filled in the mining industry over the next decade. — Photo courtesy MiHR

The Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) has some good news. Its 2017 Canadian Mining Labour Market Outlook report indicates that the mining industry currently employs approximately 190,000 people and will need to recruit roughly 90,000 new entrants to the industry over the next decade to meet existing demand.

“Roughly 12,000 of that total forecast is based on growth, but the majority is due to aging workers retiring from the industry,” said Ryan Montpellier, executive director of MiHR.

MiHR was established in 1996 with the mandate to identify opportunities and address the labour market and human resource challenges within the Canadian mining industry. In collaboration with mining companies, organized labour, educational institutions and special interest groups, MiHR is ideally positioned to implement strategic projects and programs aimed at strengthening mining’s talent alloy. 

Fostering an effective workforce

In an attempt to bridge the gap between labour supply and demand within the Canadian mining industry, MiHR focuses on three key areas of interest within the industry: labour market information, as expressed through its market research and HR supply forecasting; diversity and inclusion of special interest groups including Indigenous communities and newcomers to Canada; and competency-based assessments aimed at standardizing the industry on a national level.

To attract future generations, the MiHR has created content targeted to high school students. “We have a career brand called Explore for More and a number of career resources that are distributed to guidance councillors in schools across Canada,” Montpellier said. This content includes career profile videos, educational institutions that provide training, and social media resources.

Attracting special interest groups

Montpellier gives two examples of current initiatives MiHR is using to leverage talent from under-represented groups.

First is Mining Essentials: the pre-employment, work readiness program for Aboriginal youth. This 12-week program has shown positive results in the 40 participating communities across the country. The program goes beyond traditional training: the industry brings students on site for hands-on projects.

“We’ve seen the graduates from the Mining Essentials program moving on either into the industry or to further their post-secondary education to find employment in the mining industry,” he said. The success rate is over 60 per cent.

Second is Gender Equity in Mining (GEM). “Our GEM program is about helping our industry mitigate the systemic barriers that exist in the workplace that most might not even know exist,” Montpellier said. Specifically, the program promotes changing the way industry approaches diversity and inclusion and helps shine a spotlight on the number of benefits that accompany a diverse mining workforce. This program includes executive development and e-learning modules to help guide the industry towards more inclusive practices.

“We are seeing positive results in how mining companies have identified and addressed the key barriers in their workplace,” Montpellier said.

Examining technology in mining

An upcoming area of focus for the council is addressing the shifting industry in terms of technology and the related career options.

“There’s no doubt that the makeup of the mining industry is evolving,” Montpellier said. “Every year we seem to do more with less. We’ve seen some new jobs come to fruition that didn’t exist even five years ago.” When forecasting the job market, they have factored in this productivity increase.

For this reason, the council plans to kick off a study in January 2018 that will specifically research the ways technology is changing the skills and makeup of the labour force: what jobs will be created, and what skills will be necessary?

“There’s an evolution of the skill set required to work in certain positions within the mining industry,” he said, referring to technology like autonomous equipment, driverless haul trucks and remote mining. “Part of that study will be to get a better understanding of what that means for the makeup of the workforce.”

For example, the use of data and machinery is changing. “How we are operating mines is evolving,” Montpellier said. “We are going to see more need for programmers, IT workers and positions that lead to innovation in the industry.”

In closing, MiHR stresses that mining is still a viable career option, even as job descriptions within the industry change. “Canada is one of the largest mining nations in the world, and there is a tremendous amount of opportunity in mining that will continue for decades,” Montpellier said. “Mining offers significant opportunity . . . high-paying jobs, the chance to work with innovative and cutting-edge technology, and the ability to explore our country.”

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