Trade unions expressed concerns on Tuesday (20 November) about a shortage of skilled workers in the extraction industry, which they say is becoming a problem for Europe at a time of rising global demand for raw materials. “Young people are not interested in working in the raw materials industry.”
This is the stark reality observed by Peter Scherrer, deputy secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). The union leader was speaking at a dinner debate hosted by the European Mineral Resources Confederation (EUMICON), which discussed the global race for raw materials under the title “Building a New World, Made in Europe”.
According to Scherrer, working conditions in the extractive industry should be improved in order to make the sector more attractive to young people. The figures in terms of education are depressing. Mineral processing graduates in Europe are almost negligible, representing around 1% of the total on a global level, said Christian Egenhofer, head of the energy and climate programme at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), a think tank.
And the situation is unlikely to improve in the short term, Egenhofer said, pointing to the decline of educational programmes related to the extractive industry in most European countries. The European Commission is aware of the issue, he told EURACTIV. However, there is little it can do since education is not an EU competence.
The shortage of European graduates raises concerns among industry representatives. Skilled workers are badly needed in order to meet rising demand for raw materials fuelled by a growing world population, said Jill Duggan, director at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) in the UK.