A skills shortage is threatening to slow the shift to a green economy, as more young people are turning their noses up at mining jobs
Lily Dickson was hurrying across the University of Leeds campus when a student campaigner handed her a flier that called for a ban on campus recruiting by mining and oil-and-gas companies. The 24-year old doctoral student in geology was taken aback. She had recently returned from a trip to Finland, having worked with Vancouver-based miner Mawson Gold, exploring new places to mine cobalt in Europe.
The ban wasn’t an empty threat or an isolated incident. Last year, four U.K. universities—but not Leeds—banned mining firms from recruiting on campus and attending careers fairs, part of a broader trend of college graduates and young workers turning their backs on extractive industries that they fear harm the planet.
Companies that mine copper, lithium and other metals—viewed as a critical part of the supply chain to produce green energy—say they are struggling to find enough young workers to support the transition. Most mining companies in the U.S., Australia and Europe say their expansion and growth plans could come under pressure if current hiring trends continue, especially for high-skilled roles such as engineers, exploration geologists and data analysts.
“Changing societal expectations place pressure on our brand as an employer, and require us to become better at communicating who we are and what we stand for,” said Rio Tinto in its latest annual report.