Report will delve into extent of [mining sector] skilled worker shortage – by Heidi Ulrichsen (Sudbury Northern Life – July 27, 2012)

This article came from Northern Life, Sudbury’s biweekly newspaper.

It’s gotten to the point where mining supply and service industry companies are complaining that large mining companies are actually “poaching” their workers because they’re able to offer better pay, Reggie Caverson, executive director of the workplace planning board, said.

Keeping this in mind, the Workplace Planning for Sudbury and Manitoulin is teaming up with the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) to produce a report detailing the statistics of just how many skilled workers will be needed in the mining industry in the future.

“With what’s happening now in the mining industry and the mining services, we’re seeing this huge boom that’s occurring,” Caverson said. “I think we’re all aware of this boom that’s happening right now. What hasn’t happened is a really solid look at what that means in terms of human resources — who we need and what we need, and how many of what we need.”

Similar reports are also being produced throughout the northeast through partnerships between MiHR and local planning boards.

In total, it will cost about $200,000 to produce all of the reports. The province is providing about $85,000 for the project, with local stakeholders chipping in for the rest of the cost.

“The Sudbury area is a centre for hard-rock mining,” Glen Murray, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, said in a press release.

“Employment Ontario is helping to ensure that the education and training programs that will help the industry grow in Sudbury and Manitoulin are available locally for people interested in a career in mining. Creating jobs and strengthening the economy is top priority for the McGuinty government.”

The survey will be going out to all mining and mining supply and service industry companies in mid-August, and will ask for their estimates of how many workers they’ll need in the future. Caverson said she expects to get the surveys back by the end of September.

Then MiHR will analyze the information, providing estimates for how many workers will be needed both in the short and long-term.
Because the mining industry is cyclical, the report will examine the situation if there’s a contraction in the mining industry, if it stays roughly the same as it is now or if there’s an expansion in the sector.

The report will also provide some broad recommendations to solve the issues associated with the shortage of skilled workers, she said.

The initiative is based on a similar report released in February by the North Superior Workforce Planning Board in Thunder Bay.

Caverson said while Thunder Bay itself doesn’t have much of a mining industry, the community wanted to examine how the upcoming development of the Ring of Fire will affect worker shortages.

The report showed that even a pessimistic industry growth outlook for the Thunder Bay region would see mining industry employers needing to hire more than 1,100 workers over the next decade to replace workers leaving the region or sector for other employment, or who are retiring.

Under the baseline or expansionary scenarios, the pressure to hire workers in all occupational areas increases, with hiring requirements of 2,840 and 4,150 workers respectively.

Here in Sudbury, one of the city’s two large mining companies — Vale — has already recruited more than 200 employees this year, and is looking to recruit another 100 by the end of 2012, company spokesperson Danica Pagnutti said.

It plans to recruit at similar levels in the future just to keep up with the pace of natural attrition rates and capital growth projects, she said.

That doesn’t even include Vale’s $2-billion Clean AER project, where 1,300 workers will be needed at the peak of construction in 2013.

The reasons behind the skilled worker shortage in the mining industry are varied, Caverson said. Because mining has seen a worldwide resurgence, the same problems are cropping up all over the planet, she said.

“The same issues are happening in Australia and in Russia – in all the countries where there are mining communities,” Caverson said. “They’re all saying the same thing. There just aren’t enough people to fill the jobs. It’s becoming a global issue.”

Here in Canada, skilled workers in the mining industry are hitting retirement age and leaving the workforce, and there aren’t enough young workers to take their place, she said.

Besides the fact that the country’s birth rate is low, and there’s just less workers to go around, young people aren’t being encouraged to go into the skilled trades, Caverson said.

“There’s a mindset that university is the way if you’re a young person,” she said.
Women, immigrants and Aboriginal people are also underrepresented in the mining industry, she said.

“It’s still not considered by many women as the appropriate area to go into,” Caverson said.

“We’re trying to encourage young women to get into the trades as well. We also know there’s an under-representation in the Aboriginal community. In Canada, the Aboriginal community is the fastest-growing population. So it’s an important group to bring on board.

“There are some efforts by different groups to start training some of the Aboriginal youth on mining issues and different kinds of skilled trades.”

For more information about the upcoming survey, contact the Workplace Planning for Sudbury and Manitoulin at 705-675-5822.

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