November 2006

New committee on HR challenges

By H. Ednie

A worker at Agnico-Eagle's LaRonde operation

The Quebec mining industry has come together to launch an offence on the human resources challenges. This past year, the Comité sectoriel de l’industrie des mines du Québec (sectorial committee on HR for the Quebec mining industry) was incorporated, and strategic planning is near completion to formulate a three-year plan to address industry needs.

Pierre Guimont is the general manager of the sectorial committee. “People in the industry wanted a sectorial committee to address all the human resources matters in the sector,” he explained. “These included employers, workers’ associations and so on—they came together to form this committee to address common concerns.”

The plan took wing in 2004, and for about a year and a half, efforts were made to complete a diagnostic of the human resources challenges, and to identify the different concerns and questions to be addressed by the committee.

Last January, the composition of the committee was finalized, and the committee officially started April 1. Funded by Emploi Quebec, the board includes eight representatives from employers, eight from workers’ associations, and four from government.

“Throughout the summer and early fall, we’ve worked in the field to establish who is in the industry,what they are doing,what organizations exist, and to reach out in industry and visit schools to make contacts and assess the situation,” Guimont said.“We’re working to get everyone on the same wavelength, and have established three priorities.”

The three priorities include promotion, training, and HR management— policies that companies should work on to attract and retain employees. The major problem identified is how to sustain current industry growth while also replacing or coping with the retirement wave. “These aren’t unique issues—they cross industrial sectors,”Guimont added.“But in many mining areas the populations are decreasing, demanding new ways to attract people. It’s an interesting challenge—you can’t work on one aspect of the problem in isolation; you must address all sides at once.”

On the HR management side, companies are developing HR practices to be more attractive to employees, and repositioning their policies to increase worker satisfaction. For example, increased efforts to involve the employee on the first day of work, through mentoring or other practices, would make a difference at the end of the year in how proud people are to be in the mining industry.

The committee’s main focuses for the next year, however, will be on promotion and training. “We need to reach out to young people, at school, who are not sure what to do in life,” Guimont said. “Mining has a public image, and I’m not sure that it’s still relevant. People need to see the pace of change of industry, to see its evolution. As an industry we need to work harder at this—changing perspectives is a very long process.”

The committee doesn’t plan to reinvent the wheel, but rather work together with other groups, and perhaps piggyback on, or chip in to, different actions already being led throughout the province.

Training is a key element, and Guimont said the committee wants to evaluate more specific training needs, then build solutions. Again, through working with companies and groups across the industry, the committee will seek areas lacking current leadership.

By November, the action plan for the next three years will be completed, to be presented at the November board meeting and to the three main mining areas in the province—Abitibi- Témiscamingue,Côte-Nord,and Nord-du-Québec. “We’re prepping the first year now, and it promises to be busy,” said Guimont.

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