May 2013

HR Outlook

Mining sector must build and cultivate talent pool

By Ryan Montpellier

The recent federal budget highlighted the pressing need to address future skills shortages – jobs without people and people without jobs – and the huge employment gap that eligible retirees will soon create. The Mining Industry Human Resource (MiHR) Council’s 2013 labour market report, released in May, found that over the next 10 years, the mining industry will need to fill more than 145,000 jobs. (An economic upswing sees this number rise to 200,000 workers, while a contraction brings it down to 120,000 workers.) A large portion of this future workforce will not fill “new jobs” but will be replacements for forecasted retirements.

By industry request, this year the MiHR labour market model added available talent and labour supply estimates for 66 key occupations in mining. Having this new supply side information has made gap analyses for each of these 66 occupations possible, and will subsequently enable companies to create targeted strategies specific to their hiring requirements.

Three underlying trends emerged from MiHR’s gap analysis. For certain occupations, a large talent pool is available but the mining industry’s ability to attract new recruits falls short of projected needs. For example, mining has traditionally attracted only 4.6 per cent of technical occupations like land surveyors, civil engineers or chemical technologists – our industry will need to nearly double this number. The mining industry must attract talent away from other sectors where the labour pool exists but workers are not choosing mining jobs.

For other occupations, the projected talent pool will not be large enough to meet the forecasted need. Many of these occupations are mining-specific and require highly skilled individuals with training and experience in the industry. Addressing this issue requires a long-term talent attraction strategy, as well as coordination with educators, training institutions, immigration services and other sectors to grow the labour pool and to attract new talent.

The third trend revealed conditions where there will be just enough available talent to meet the industry’s need for certain occupations. But this gap assumes “status quo” economic and labour market conditions, and it will become increasingly difficult to attract workers if the labour market heats up and other sectors start competing for the same talent.

The mining industry will have to do more than rely on lucrative wages to secure its future workforce. Addressing these impending skills challenges will require employers to retain and support leaders through leadership development and succession planning. It will be important to acknowledge not only the loss of workers, but the knowledge and experience they take with them. The retention of aging workers will be necessary, as they provide younger employees with the mentorship and development support they need to be successful.

The new generation of leaders across the mining industry will need to embrace strategies that encourage the hiring of diverse, yet largely untapped, groups such as women, immigrants and Aboriginal Peoples. Women are broadly underrepresented in Canadian mining, at just 16 per cent of the workforce, falling short of other resource industries such as forestry, utilities, and oil and gas. In areas where the talent pool is too shallow to fulfill hiring needs, and talent attraction does not secure employees in the short term, the industry must look to immigration. Attracting immigrants to remote locations and recognizing foreign credentials will be important in such cases.

Finally, Aboriginal Peoples have the potential to become a significant source of future labour for the industry. While mining in Canada generally outperforms other industries in terms of employing Aboriginal Peoples, they are predominantly hired in entry-level and support roles. Employers must encourage and promote aboriginal employees to obtain mid- to high-level positions within their organizations. Doing so will ensure sound socio-economic development for aboriginal communities and help manage gaps in knowledge worker roles.

Demand for workers will be widespread, but some occupations will face greater supply issues than others. MiHR’s HR forecast helps quantify these issues, so that employers, educators and governments can develop targeted strategies. As noted above, a combination of approaches is the key to the future sustainability and success of the Canadian mining industry.

For more information or to access MiHR’s HR Forecasts Report, please visit or email

Ryan Montpellier is the executive director of the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) in Canada. Most recently, Ryan was awarded the 2011 Canadian Institute of Mining Bedford Young Leadership Award, which recognized his achievements in addressing the industry’s human resources and labour market challenges.


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