June/July 2007

Student Life

What are we looking for?

By B.W. Haley

The teams competing in the 2007 Canadian Mining Games were posed two questions: “What have companies been overlooking in their recruitment process?” and “What can they do to make the communities they operate out of more appealing to young engineers?” These questions were the focus of the seminar competition. Teams from 12 mining universities prepared their responses and nominated a representative to present to the judges at the opening banquet. The competition was judged by very intrigued representatives from the Rio Tinto Group: IOC, Diavik, QIT, and QMP.

Students have had first-hand exposure to the advancements made in corporate recruitment. The labour shortage generated by the rapidly expanding mining industry has forced companies to maximize their recruitment process. This has generated unprecedented opportunities for young engineers. Incentives such as signing bonuses, relocation packages, stock options, and, of course, higher salaries have become the norm. For many students, this year’s seminar competition was the first time they were asked, “What are you looking for?”

The speakers of the seminar competition had varying perspectives on what companies had been overlooking. A successful recruitment program needs to be comprehensive. Given the nature of the problem, the recruitment process should begin with university enrolment and end with ensuring jobs that offer opportunities for personal and professional development. Increasing university enrolment would help alleviate the labour shortage. University programs can be developed through student bursaries, donations for facility improvements, and, of course, industry involvement. Industry involvement takes the form of internships, corporate presentations, and technical seminars. It is important to offer students the opportunity to become acquainted with companies before making their employment decisions.

The formal recruitment process should be a two-way street, offering companies and students alike the opportunity to make educated decisions based on the other’s credentials and culture. The process should be diverse, including interviews, information sessions, and even site visits. A site visit is an opportunity for companies to form relationships with their candidates. Furthermore, candidates gain an understanding of the operation, meet their possible co-workers, and experience the community they would live in. Recruitment should be an opportunity for highly motivated employees to promote the highlights of the job and community.

Ultimately, it is the job that will attract an engineer. Employment packages should offer competitive salaries, benefits, and a relocation framework for employees and their families. Support should also be provided for finding employment for spouses in their field of expertise. Young engineers are looking for systems in place that offer them the ability to plan for their future with the company, either formal E.I.T programs or planning sessions with supervisors. Prospects within the company are imperative, but the attractiveness of the community is also a deciding factor.

It only takes a quick glance over Canada’s mining operations to realize that many, if not most, are located in very remote areas. The second seminar question faced the challenge of recruiting engineers from Canada’s large cities for work in remote communities. Although each presentation was unique, one commonality could be drawn between all of them: young engineers are looking for communities with both culture and infrastructure.

Each community’s culture is unique; it is derived from the people in it and cannot be duplicated elsewhere. In order to develop a community’s culture, it’s the company’s responsibility to play an active role in it. The responsibility of the company begins by developing the community’s infrastructure. Adequate housing, health care, education, and recreational services are crucial to the lives of employees and their families. Only once these basic needs are met can the culture of a community flourish.

Companies should stimulate their community’s culture with social programs developed by employees. Social programs should be frequent and diverse, and may include events like team sports, trips, and dinners. Company goals in the community should emphasize sustainable development and promote employee involvement. Part of the communities’ sustainable development should be through charitable programs set up to help the less fortunate.

Companies are responsible for facilitating the development of communities, but ultimately it is the responsibility of employees to contribute to creating the lifestyle and culture they want.

So, what are we looking for? Young engineers are looking for the company that not only offers them the best salary and benefits, but the best lifestyle. The best way to promote lifestyle is to let community and corporate cultures speak for themselves. Cultures based on enthusiasm, creativity, and open-mindedness are sure to prevail.

The seminar event of the 17th annual Canadian Mining Games was an opportunity for students to express their perspective on current issues and for companies to gain insight into our culture.

Bernard W. Haley is a mining engineering student at McGill University.

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