February 2010

HR Outlook

Invaluable, but relatively unknown: HQP help to drive innovation

By M. Roberts

Highly qualified people (HQP), often defined as individuals with post-secondary diplomas or degrees, are a vital segment of the Canadian resources industry. They occupy pivotal roles, provide organizational leadership, drive research and development (R&D) efforts, and directly contribute to the industry’s long-term competitiveness and sustainability. Most importantly, HQP drive innovation and economic growth.

Research shows a strong relationship between the proportion of HQP in a workforce and the rapidity with which it develops and adopts technology. Through its impact on productivity and performance, this ultimately drives economic growth. In other words, the more educated the workforce, the better it is able to implement technological advances.1 The industry’s economic growth thus depends on its ability to attract and retain HQP.2 Moreover, the relationship between HQP and innovation is circular. As HQP drive innovation, innovation helps the industry attract and retain HQP.

Technological advancements and workplace diversity are key factors in attracting HQP to the industry. New technology and innovative work processes have created opportunities for traditionally under-represented talent groups. MiHR recently produced 34 physical demand analysis (PDA) reports pertaining to underground miners, surface miners and mineral processors. These analyses clearly showed that innovations in job process and advances in technology have reduced the physical requirements of many jobs. As a result, some roles are increasingly occupied by segments of the workforce that did not previously have the physical strength to meet job requirements. The industry, thus rendered diverse, is more attractive to HQP.

Strong relationships between post-secondary institutions and employers also ensure a steady flow of HQP to the industry. Industry support for students (e.g., internships, summer work programs, cooperative education and apprenticeships) ensures that the future workforce is well prepared and that new graduates are aware of the career opportunities the industry has to offer. Further, industry involvement in and support for post secondary research ensures the relevance and timeliness of research-driven technological advancements and enhances their positive impacts on the growth of the industry.

There is no question that HQP are essential to innovation, productivity, growth and sustainability. However, the industry lacks fundamental information about this segment of the workforce. Standard sources of labour market information (LMI) do not usually report specifically on HQP. To address this gap, MiHR has partnered with the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC) to develop a workforce profile and improve industry understanding of HQP-related challenges and opportunities.

This study will help industry stakeholders strategize to attract and retain these valuable human resources. The study will also yield enhanced LMI and a better understanding of HQP stocks and flows; a strategic approach to workforce planning; and development of an industry-wide HQP attraction and retention action plan. Ultimately, this initiative will increase the participation of HQP in Canadian mining and thereby secure its future competitiveness and growth.

1 Dowrick, S. (2002). The contribution of innovation and education to economic growth. Paper presented at Towards Opportunity and Prosperity: Melbourne Institute Economic and Social Outlook Conference.

2 Prelazzi, D. (2009). Innovation and commercialization: rising to the challenge through a business acceleration ecosystem. A working paper prepared by the British Columbia Innovation Council for the B.C. Business Council Outlook 2020 Initiative.

Martha Roberts is manager of research, sector studies at the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR). She is responsible for Research for Industry Sustainability: enhancing the labour market information available to mining and minerals exploration stakeholders and investigating the short- and long-term human resources issues facing the industry.

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