OMA NEWS RELEASE: Is labour market gap shortfall or opportunity for employment boom?

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

The most recent report by the Mining Industry Human Resource Council (MiHR) shows that Canada’s mining sector faces a human resource challenge to attract 145,000 new workers over the next decade. “Canadian Mining Industry Employment, Hiring Requirements and Available Talent 10-year Outlook” presents, in detail, views on the economic future of the industry, its workforce requirements — and shortfalls — and suggested actions to reduce the impending labour gap.

The study bases industry employment levels on three different economic forecasts. A baseline case shows the sector with cumulative hiring requirements out to 2023 to be 145,870. The expansionary case shows labour requirements of almost 200,000 workers over the same period while a contractionary case still shows cumulative hiring requirements of 116,850 for the next decade.

The MiHR report puts employment forecasts for 66 core mining occupations under the microscope. Difficulties are foreseen due to pending high retirement rates related to the industry’s demographics as well as recognition that mining must compete with other sectors to attract and retain valuable employees. It also recognizes the remote locations of many mining operations can be a barrier.

Solutions offered include improving awareness of mining opportunities among young people and re-adapting retirees to be mentors and knowledge sharers. As well, greater efforts to involve immigrants, women and Aboriginals in the mining workforce are to be encouraged.

It must be noted that a recent Ontario Mining Association economic impact study shows that Aboriginals comprise 9.7% of the province’s mining workforce. At the national level, mining is the largest private sector employer of Aboriginals, who make up about 7.5% of the Canadian mining workforce and 3.8% of the Canadian population.

The MiHR study notes that the participation rates of Aboriginals as mining employees outperforms the rest of the Canadian labour market. “Aboriginal people represent the greatest potential as a source of future labour supply for the industry.”

“The value of mineral production in Canada continues to lead the world with a total value of $50.3 billion in 2011,” said the study. “High demand for Canada’s natural resources from major developing countries is expected to continue over the next few decades, as large populations of new middle-class consumers emerge and try to catch up to Western nations. Therefore, the forecast for future commodity prices during the next decade is for a sustained and steady increase.”

“Solutions to the pending crisis will require coordinated and cooperative efforts among all stakeholders,” said the report. “The responsibility to address hiring requirements and talent gaps does not rest with industry employers alone, but also with industry associations, community stakeholders, education and training institutions and governments. Ensuring that all stakeholders work together to attract and retain talent is critical – not only to the mining industry, but to the Canadian economy as a whole.”

The OMA has not missed this call. The Association’s So You Think You Know Mining high school video competition, the annual Mining Teachers Tour and numerous education and outreach efforts strive to promote a greater awareness of the industry and its contributions and opportunities.

MiHR estimates that the Canadian mining industry currently and directly employs 235,000 Canadians. This total is segmented as 71,000 (30%) involved in mineral extraction, 50,000 (22%) in mineral exploration, 41,000 (17%) in mining supply and support services and 72,000 (31%) in primary metal manufacturing.

The MiHR report delves into the age old philosophical question – is the Canadian mining industry’s workforce future a glass half full or a glass half empty. While there can be no discounting of the human resource challenges the industry is struggling to deal with, similarly, there should be no short changing of the industry’s ability to provide meaningful and productive employment to anywhere from 116,00 to 200,000 Canadians over the next decade. It behooves governments to help create stable and predictable environments to help mining deliver on this promise of opportunity.