September 2013

MiHR program certifies 500th miner

Canadian Mining Certification program secures footing

By Krystyna Lagowski

When the 500th worker was certified by the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR), through the Canadian Mining Certification program (CMCP) this summer, it was more than a proud moment. It meant that the program was gaining traction within the Canadian mining industry.

“We reached our 500th worker certification faster than we expected,” said Barbara Kirby, senior director, workforce development at MiHR. “About a quarter of those who were certified were with a mine that was closing. Now, these miners can take a nationally recognized skills package to potential employers, easing the hiring challenge on both sides.”

The CMCP was launched in 2011, in response to MiHR’s labour market information that indicated a need to hire 145,000 new workers over the next 10 years. The organization created a national certification program with standards set up for underground miners, surface miners, mineral processing operators and diamond drillers. “These occupations were among the highest in demand,” said Kirby. “Also, we chose occupations that have no other forms of national recognition.”

Workplace assessors at companies are selected and trained by MiHR to evaluate candidates under the CMCP process. This person then assesses, validates and records a candidate’s skills while they perform tasks. The assessments are compiled in a report, and once it is completed and submitted to MiHR, the worker is certified.

When a skilled worker achieves this certification, the benefit is felt by many throughout the industry. The worker can put his or her expertise to good use anywhere in the country following a mine closure or a transfer to a new site. And employers who want to hire workers who are certified to that national standard are appreciative, since it streamlines their hiring process.

There are other benefits for employers. Denis Beaudoin, corporate director of health and safety for Cementation Canada Inc., hoped to leverage the company’s participation in CMCP during big proposals to potential clients. “Indicating that our miners are certified to national occupational standards gives us an upper hand on other contractors,” he said.

Beaudoin, who has also served on the MiHR certification standing committee for four years, admitted they did not think the certification program would catch on as quickly as it did. “There are some companies that already have their own training program in place, and MiHR thought they might find it too expensive or redundant to become involved,” Beaudoin said. “But it’s an investment.”

He predicted that CMCP will help the industry address the impending skills shortage. “Everyone needs recognition for their work,” Beaudoin said. “How are we going to attract young people coming out of university and college? How are we going to compete with other industries that have these programs [for electricians, engineers and mechanics]? Only by implementing one of our own.”

At Imperial Oil’s Kearl Oil Sands project, the certification program is being run alongside the company’s own training program. “There’s incredible value for utilizing this as one of the tools to attract and retain employees,” said Gary Butters, mine training co-ordinator at Kearl Oil Sands. “We now have the ability to accredit our operators with a recognized skill, not just a trade. People who have been mining all their lives, have multiple years of experience, and are finally being recognized – they’re pretty excited about it.”

Having recently gone into production, Kearl has recruited employees from all over Canada. “Some come with experience, some without,” Butters explained. “We’re giving them certification on site to be able to operate our equipment, and at the same time, completing these formal records of assessment for the CMCP program.”

Butters said it is important for building a positive culture at Kearl. “We’re going to have to recruit a lot of people in the next few years, and we have to do everything in our power to get the best people that we can,” he added.

Mike MacPherson, training superintendent at Rio Tinto’s Diavik diamond mine, said benefits exist for both miners and employers. “Recognizing worker accomplishments with a national standard is meaningful to miners but also helps the employer because it gives us a way to acknowledge the training and competency they already have,” he said. “We have an established training program, but CMCP is an assessment of competencies, so we can cover both requirements at the same time.

“We have a social responsibility to smaller northern communities, and this program offers capacity building,” MacPherson noted. “We want to contribute and help with professional development at an individual level, and this program helps us do that.”

Ultimately, the program will open up to more occupations and may even apply to Canadian operations around the globe. “I think it has the potential to have a much larger impact,” said Kirby, adding that the total number of certified workers has already reached 560. “And with all this momentum, we’re well on track to complete our 1,000th certification ahead of schedule.”

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