May 2008

HR Outlook

A new “Force” for the mining industry

By M. Sturk

The Canadian mining industry is experiencing an unprecedented period of prosperity. This, combined with a projected 40 per cent retirement rate over the next 10 years, has created an intense skills shortage in the industry. No longer is the sector able to look solely to Canadian training and educational institutions to completely meet the labour demand.

The Mining Industry Human Resources Council is pursuing an integrated strategy to address critical HR shortages by dispelling oversimplified views of our industry, encouraging talented young people to pursue careers in mining, establishing a national mining credentialing program and tapping into non-traditional labour pools. In particular, the council is striving towards the attraction and recruitment of non-traditional human resources to the industry. The focus of mining-related career promotion has targeted youth, aboriginal people, women, new Canadians and Canadian ex-pats through the Mining Industry Attraction, Recruitment and Retention Strategy program. MiHR is also working on a “From Forestry to Mining” project aimed at developing a process to support the transition of skilled workers from occupations in the forestry sector to careers in the mining workforce.

Recently, a new target group of non-traditional mining workers has emerged — retiring Canadian Forces personnel. Canadian military veterans have been identified as a natural fit for employment in our sector. Forces personnel are highly skilled, with a combination of technical and leadership training; they have proven experience working in remote areas and situations that require safety awareness, critical thinking and process application. Also, it is expected that several military occupations will have a high degree of overlap with key occupations in the mining industry. Transitioning veterans from a military occupation to a civilian career in the mining industry is an innovative concept and expectedly, employers will need some basic information.

Once an individual in the Forces completes his or her initial commitment (usually a span of three to five years), he or she has three career options: 1) to continue with a career in the Forces, 2) to leave the Forces entirely and seek civilian occupations or, 3) become a Canadian Reservist, with a full-time civilian career. The mining industry can gain skilled workers from options two and three.

Option Two

Through partnership with the Canadian Forces, the mining industry has an opportunity to align its recruitment efforts with military career services. Given accurate information and competency standards for the industry, Forces career counselors can illustrate the transferability of acquired skills, positioning the sector as a viable option for workers who are leaving the Forces.

Option Three

The mining sector can take simple steps to become a ‘Reservist friendly’ employer. Reservists require just two weeks of Forces training per year to maintain their Reservist status. Providing two weeks for professional development is an easy arrangement for many mining companies, particularly fly-in/fly-out operations. Also, it is important to note that unlike the US Reserves, Canadian Reservists can volunteer for a tour of duty if and when it best suits them. They are not required to perform additional tours. These assignments can be planned well in advance, and appropriate arrangements can be made with the agreement and support of their civilian employers. An added bonus is that employees returning from an additional tour of duty, come back with more training and new skills, all to the benefit of their civilian employer.

More details on the recruitment of these potential workers will be provided to industry as the military-to-mining concept develops. For more information about this initiative, plan on attending the CIM Conference and Exhibition in Edmonton from May 4 to 7. A representative of the Canadian Forces will attend and present at the Human Resources session on the morning of May 6.

Melanie Sturk is the project manager for the Mining Attraction, Recruitment and Retention project at MiHR.

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