June/July 2012

HR Outlook

Industry and community collaboration helping to foster local employment opportunities

By Melanie Sturk

The mining industry outperforms the rest of Canada’s economy in the employment of Aboriginal peoples. In 2006, Statistics Canada reported seven per cent of the mining workforce self-identify as being of Aboriginal descent. A great deal of potential, however, remains to be developed. MiHR is committed to facilitating connections between Aboriginal organizations and the education and mining sectors in support of this continued effort to increase Aboriginal inclusion in mining, so we continue to make progress.

In March, the first graduating class of the Mining Essentials program at Northern College of Applied Arts and Technology gathered to celebrate their achievements in front of family, community members and mining industry partners. Planned and led entirely by students, the ceremony included a series of team-building exercises focused on themes of community, collaboration and new opportunities – an approach true to the educational program’s spirit.

A work-readiness training program for Aboriginal peoples, Mining Essentials was launched in August 2011. The program, delivered in 12 weeks, is co-owned by MiHR and the Assembly of First Nations, and was developed to increase participation rates of Aboriginals in mining by enhancing the preparedness of the local workforce.

As one of the fastest-growing segments of the Canadian population, and as the population with most communities located in proximity to many mine sites and operations, the Aboriginal population represents a large potential pool of workers that can support the mining industry by playing a key role in mitigating the human resources challenge mining companies face.

Mining Essentials teaches non-technical skills and knowledge the industry has defined as critical for entry-level positions in mining. Classroom learning includes 11 modules that teach work-readiness skills, including industry knowledge, attitudes and essential skills like reading, numeracy and writing. Skills are taught through lessons that incorporate traditional cultural teachings with industry examples and case studies. The program also includes flexible enrichment activities, such as site visits, first-aid training and guest speakers. Mining Essentials contributes to the economic development of the community by increasing literacy and local employment rates.

Bob Mack, vice-president of community, business development and employment services at Northern College, says the combination of program content and enrichment activities offers students a complete overview of the range of opportunities available in mining and, more importantly, identifies what skills and credentials are required to access them.

The first program was delivered from November 2011 to March 2012 by Northern College’s South Porcupine campus, in partnership with local mining companies Goldcorp (Porcupine Gold Mines), Dumas and Detour Gold. Other partners included Porcupine Prospectors and Developers Association, Misiway Milopemahtesewin Community Health Centre, Timmins Native Friendship Centre, Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, Wabun Tribal Council and Mushkegowuk Employment and Training Services.

The program is a bridge to new opportunities; graduates have either secured employment in the mining industry, are pursuing further education, or are in the process of finding employment in the industry. Northern College is planning a second intake of Mining Essentials learners in 2013. Following the launch of the Mining Essentials program at the beginning of 2012, MiHR announced the start of Mining New Possibilities – Essential Skills for Aboriginal Peoples. The $940,000 project, funded by the government of Canada’s Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, will expand the scope of Mining Essentials by ensuring key recommendations from the pilot are implemented to address the unique needs of Métis and Inuit peoples. The project will establish a sustainable and nationally standardized Mining Essentials program, which will include e-learning components and a sophisticated trainers’ portal.

MiHR has mobilized employers, educators and Aboriginal groups to work more collaboratively and to enhance partnerships, and is looking for more partners to deliver Mining Essentials in the fall. Interested companies, communities and educators should contact Pascplarouche@mihr.ca for more information on how to get started. 

Melanie Sturk is the director of attraction, retention, and transition at the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR), the national HR council for Canada's minerals and metals industry. MiHR contributes to the strength, competiveness and sustainability of the mining industry by collaborating with all communities of interest in the development and implementation of HR solutions. Melanie is responsible for the initiatives that encourage new workers, particularly those from underrepresented groups, to engage in mining careers that support the industry by enhancing workplace diversity.

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