The Canadian mining industry is highly competitive on the world stage and has the potential to remain successful for many years. Countries undergoing rapid economic development will continue to need the raw materials that Canada provides; however, this potential is threatened by looming labour shortages and human resources issues facing the sector. Several labour market trends are impacting the availability and quality of people in mining, most notably the aging workforce, productivity and challenges in attracting new talent to the sector.
One of the Mining Industry Human Resources (MiHR) Council’s priorities is to offer solutions to these human resources challenges by providing labour market information (LMI) to sector stakeholders on an ongoing basis. LMI encompasses data on employment levels, hiring requirements, turnover and worker demographics, and facilitates decision-making. This valuable information is particularly useful to HR practitioners, workforce planners, academia, transitioning workers, immigrant and Aboriginal organizations, youth and others. It is regularly used as input into the development of economic and social policies, workforce planning and decisions regarding investment in training.
By exploring anticipated hiring requirements over the medium to long term, we are helping industry take practical measures to ensure that the risks associated with a boom or bust can be mitigated. This entails forecasting future hiring requirements in the sector, by occupation and region, based on a number of explanatory input variables such as fluctuations in commodity prices, retirement rates, turnover and productivity.
This summer, MiHR is releasing two powerful LMI resources:
- a national report outlining the labour market trends and a 10-year occupational and regional forecast in mining; and
- an online tool that will allow industry stakeholders to create custom HR forecasts and feed them into their strategic plans and scenario models.
Key findings from this research reveal that employment in mining is much more volatile compared to most other sectors in Canada. Also, the industry is quickly aging and is not regenerating itself fast enough; the average retirement age in mining is much younger, at 59.5, compared with an average of 62 for the entire economy. The mining industry will therefore face the challenges of the retirement exodus before most industries in Canada.
Under the baseline scenario in the forecasting model, the Canadian mining industry will have to hire 100,000 new workers by the year 2020. If commodity prices perform better than expected, under a modest expansionary scenario, cumulative hiring requirements could reach over 135,000 workers. Even under the expansionary scenario, the majority of those workers are not due to growth, but rather replacement workers.
Attracting, recruiting and retaining this many people in such a short period will be a daunting task and industry will need to continue its investment in maximizing all potential sources of labour. To fill the talent gap, continued efforts to attract and retain youth, women, new Canadians and Aboriginal Peoples will provide access to a larger pool of work-ready individuals.
Furthermore, given the large demands on replacing retired workers from a depleted labour pool, the industry will have to increasingly rely on improving or, at a minimum, maintaining productivity levels. Increases in productivity will come through investments in training and education and through innovation, capital asset acquisitions and advancements in technology.
Central to achieving a balanced and effective workforce is industry collaboration. MiHR has mobilized industry partners to work more collaboratively than in the past on issues that apply to everyone: diversity, mobility, career awareness, retention, standardization, transition and certification. MiHR invites you to participate in the development of these solutions and share your ideas as we move forward in addressing the HR challenge.
Ryan Montpellier is the executive director of MiHR. Currently, he sits on a number of boards and provincial committees dealing with labour shortages in the mining sector.