November 2011

HR Outlook

Mining Essentials: 12 weeks can change the future

By L. Forcellini

Aboriginal Peoples have a strong history in Canada’s mining industry. As one of the fastest growing segments of the Canadian population and with Aboriginal communities located in close proximity to many mine sites and operations, they provide a large potential pool of workers for the sector.

With the support of the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR), industry has made tremendous strides to address the human resource issue and to continue to grow the talent pool. MiHR and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) have worked together and partnered with provincial, territorial and national associations, communities, educators and employers to develop Mining Essentials: A Work Readiness Training Program for Aboriginal Peoples to help companies and communities meet joint hiring and employment targets. Last fall, the program was piloted at Anishinabek Employment and Training Services (AETS) in Thunder Bay, Ontario; Northwest Community College in Hazelton, British Columbia; and Anishinaabeg of Kabapikotawangag Resource Council in Kenora, Ontario.

Mining Essentials teaches industry-validated, essential non-technical skills and training required for an individual to be considered for an entry-level position in the mining industry. The program incorporates both industry and traditional cultures for a unique learning experience, thus increasing the probability of graduates of the program gaining employment in one of Canada’s highest paying industrial sectors. Mining Essentials enables companies to benefit from a local, skilled and empowered workforce; it also fosters economic development that results in healthy communities.

Impacts of the pilot program

At the International Indigenous Summit on Energy and Mining this past June, National Chief Shawn Atleo reflected on the significance of this collaborative program. “The Hazelton area in northern BC has a number of First Nations communities with high unemployment, despair and far too many suicides,” he said. “When Hazelton was chosen as one of three pilot sites for the mining program, we had over 40 applications for only 12 positions. If we work together we can all win.  Our people will be able to escape poverty through the prosperity that these projects will bring.”

Of the 22 graduates of the Mining Essentials pilot, nine are now employed in the mining sector and four in other sectors. One of the participants has returned to school and five candidates are actively looking for work.

In mid-September, the AFN received a report from Northwest Community College that there has been an 80 per cent success rate for graduates who have either found employment or have gone back to school for advanced training.

It is another step in the right direction for an industry that is already outperforming the rest of the economy in the employment of Aboriginal Peoples.

Program details

Mining Essentials teaches skills using industry examples, tools, documents and situations, in conjunction with traditional Aboriginal teaching methods and mediums. It is a 12-week training program that combines two components for an empowering learning experience:

  1. Classroom training on essential and work readiness (non-technical) skills, which industry has validated as necessary to be considered for entry-level hires.
  2. Enrichment activities that bring industry to life through site visits, hands-on activities, guest speakers, and/or certifications, etc., as defined by the training site and its partners.

Training must involve three-way partnerships between communities, educators and industry.

A complete listing of committee members and more detailed information about the program is available at www.aboriginalmining.ca.

What’s happening now?

The Mining Essentials program is currently being taught at Northern College in Timmins, Ontario, in partnership with the Wabun Tribal Council and Detour Gold. MiHR and the AFN are now looking to identify more qualified training sites and partners to increase opportunities to deliver Mining Essentials across Canada to launch the program in January 2012.

The Mining Essentials Program was developed through the Ready to Mine, Skills Development Project, funded by HRSDC’s Aboriginal Affairs Directorate under the Aboriginal Skills Training Strategic Investment Fund. For more information on Mining Essentials, please contact Pascale Larouche at plarouche@mihr.ca.

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