Mining skills shortage in B.C. in 2014 and beyond – by John Roozendaal (Vancouver Sun – January 9, 2014)

John Roozendaal is president of VMS Ventures.

British Columbia is known as a world-class centre of mining excellence, and Canada’s largest producer of copper, exporter of coal and the only producer of molybdenum. Mining has a production value of approximately $8.6 billion each year and currently employs over 30,000 people across the province.

The B.C. government recognizes the importance of mining. The BC Jobs Plan has set a target of opening eight new mines, and expanding nine existing mines by 2015. This will be supported by the 850 mining and exploration companies based in Vancouver — including ourselves — which account for more than half of the mining companies across Canada as a whole.

However, there is one major sticking point that could prevent these goals from being achieved: We are facing a skills shortage in the industry, and this will only escalate over the coming years as more mines are built and the need for skilled labour intensifies.

A shortage of 60,000 to 90,000 skilled workers is expected by 2017 according to The Mining Association of Canada, with B.C.’s mining industry requiring over 17,000 new employees within the next ten years.

Like other industries, mining will be affected by the aging demographic. According to Canada’s Mining Industry Human Resources Council, an estimated 40 per cent of the resource extraction industry’s workforce is at least 50 years old — one third of which is expected to retire by 2022. Even with some older workers transitioning into executive positions, their previous positions must be filled. If not, both operational productivity and the leadership pipeline are threatened.

Without a pool of skilled, experienced and accessible employees, mining’s contribution to B.C.’s economy will slow down in 2014 and beyond. The skills shortage could cause mining projects to be postponed or closed, decrease provincial investment and threaten the overall viability of future projects and exploration.

How can this situation be rectified? We believe industry professionals — particularly those looking to build or expand mines — need to take action to protect B.C. mining.

To do this, we need to prioritize recruiting potential young applicants by hosting lectures at universities. Educational institutions need to work in partnership with the mining industry to raise awareness of the opportunities available. Mining is an exciting industry offering many different career paths. We need to inspire potential future mining experts so they understand the breadth of skills needed in our industry.

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