Sept/Oct 2012

MiHR explores the oil sands

Mining in Sands provides another perspective on labour shortage

By Martha Roberts

The emerging labour shortage, if not managed, could significantly impact both oil sands mining and the Canadian mining industry as a whole. The number of people employed in oil sands mining continues to increase, but recent labour market reports from the Petroleum HR Council predict a shortage of 2,000 surface mining and related workers in the oil sands by 2020. Furthermore, the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) forecasts a need for more than 9,000 surface mining and related workers elsewhere in the Canadian mining industry over the same time period.

This alarming need for workers not only creates a labour challenge for oil sands companies, it intensifies the strain on all Canadian mining employers. Employers have indicated that they cannot compete with the high wages, extensive benefits and rewards, and other employment perks offered by oil sands employers. Furthermore, fly in/fly out arrangements are drawing talent from as far away as Atlantic Canada to the oil sands.

It is imperative that we consider workforce planning and labour market issues in the oil sands when addressing human resources issues across the domestic mining industry. In response, MiHR is collaborating on the Mining in Sands project with mining and oil sands employers. The project will create a demographic profile of the oil sands mining workforce and determine the short-and long-term HR challenges and opportunities facing oil sands employers. In addition, the study will determine the type and extent of labour market pressures that the oil sands place on other mining stakeholders. Finally, the project members will identify the challenges in meeting current and future workforce needs felt by other industry employers as a result of oil sands employment activities, and they will examine proactive and cross-industry strategies to manage the looming labour challenges.

A steering committee of industry volunteers and labour market experts at MiHR will govern the project. Activities will include surveys, interviews, focus groups and consultation discussions with oil sands employers, as well as other mining employers impacted by labour pressures in the oil sands. Project activities will result in a comprehensive report on the mining labour market in the oil sands and its impact on the rest of the Canadian mining labour force. Finally, the group will develop an industry action plan through active consultation and facilitated discussions.

A full report, as well as an industry action plan, is expected to be released in spring of 2013.

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