COMMENT: Mining industry talent forecast – by Mary Murray (Canadian Mining Journal – April 12, 2016)

TORONTO – The cyclical nature of the mining sector means that there is frequently a gap between supply and demand for talent, which in turn affects the availability of mining related academic programs. A number of universities closed their mining programs in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the impact of this is still being felt today, as the number of fresh graduates with relevant degrees is insufficient to meet even the basic needs of the industry during booms.

Moreover, more than 40% of mining sector employees are over 50 years old, with one-third expected to retire by 2022. As the industry recovers, many mining companies will try to tempt back their retirees in order to mentor younger recruits.

Many companies now think that it is relatively easy to find skilled professionals, but the shortage of technical skilled labour is still one of the most pressing concerns in the sector. For example, metallurgists are always hard to source. Many of the university programs that have been cut involved metallurgy and metallurgical engineering, and students do not necessarily choose the subject as a specialisation when it is offered within mining engineering programs.

With regard to project management, there are few qualified candidates with experience handling large scale mining projects, so it is frequently necessary to complete a global search to fill this type of role. There will always be a shortage of skilled technical candidates unless we build more programs to educate them.

There is already a missing generation in the mining sector, with most employees over 50 or under 35. The rather small contingent of Generation Xers is largely due to the fact that the mining industry was going through a protracted downturn during the time when most of that group was graduating.

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