March/April 2007

HR Outlook

MiHR reaches MARS and beyond

By R. Montpellier

It is a well-known fact that the mining industry is in the midst of a human resource crisis, with a need to fill an estimated 80,000+ jobs over the next ten years. Since the release of its landmark sector study of the Canadian Minerals and Metals Industry, the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) has been working feverishly trying to help the mining industry meet its human resource needs.

On March 6, 2007, a significant stride was made. At the PDAC annual conference, Human Resources and Social Development Canada minister, the Honourable Monte Solberg, announced $2.5 million in funding over three years for MiHR’s newest initiative, the Mining Attraction, Recruitment, and Retention Strategy, also known as MARS.

MARS will help inform Canadians about the myriad opportunities that exist in the modern mining industry and will also help industry find the right workers, with the right skills, at the right time. The project will introduce Canadians to potential careers in mining through industry-led outreach activities and hands-on classroom resources linked to provincial curricula. MiHR will work with industry to engage and retain new entrants and help with training new recruits through mentoring programs and knowledge capture mechanisms. MARS funding will also allow the Council to research and identify best practices and potential pitfalls in recruiting and retaining nontraditional sources of labour such as aboriginal people, women, new Canadians, retirees and ex-patriots (workers who left the mining industry in the past).

Project deliverables

  • Mining career path and knowledge capture videos
  • Pan-Canadian mentorship program
  • Targeted mining career presentations, a speakers’ toolkit, including classroom resources, and a national mining industry speakers’ bureau
  • Best practices guidebook for employers to facilitate recruitment and retention
  • Mining-related educational content linked to provincial curricula, including hands-on / in-class resources for teachers
  • Web-based marketing campaign targeting Canadian youth
  • Summer employment strategy to improve summer employment opportunities for students
  • Employer guides for school site visits and for developing apprenticeship programs
  • Web portal on mining careers, educational resources, and training tools

Long-term project outcomes

  • Increased awareness and improved perception of the mining sector
  • Increased delivery of earth sciences and mining-related curricula
  • Increased awareness among Canadians of mining career opportunities
  • Increased enrolment in miningrelated post-secondary programs
  • Improved industry workforce planning
  • Improved linkages between students and mining industry employers
  • Improved training content and knowledge capture mechanisms
  • Employers better equipped, informed, and able to engage a broader spectrum of the potential workforce

The skills shortage in the Canadian mining industry is forcing employers to explore all possible avenues of attraction, recruitment, and retention. Unfortunately, most of these efforts are disconnected and independent of one another, resulting in significant duplication of effort and some inconsistent messaging. While individual employers have been reasonably successful in finding the workers they need for the short term, poaching from one employer by another is rampant and clearly not a sustainable approach to staffing. Industry must work together to grow the pool of workers and skills so that the entire industry’s needs can be met over the long term. This MARS project will facilitate this process.

MARS will leverage the best products and outreach practices already developed by industry employers, and through MiHR’s coordination, information will be shared nationally with all industry stakeholders. Through the many MARS activities planned over the next three years (listed above), MiHR is in an excellent position to help industry ensure an adequate supply of workers and skills to maintain Canada’s leadership position on the mining world stage.

For more information on MARS or to become involved in the project, please contact the Mining Industry Human Resources Council at or

Ryan Montpellier is director of operation at MiHR.

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