Sept/Oct 2016

President's notes

Eating our young

By Michael Winship

Michael WinshipIn the mining industry boom times of the early 2000’s, the so called “super cycle,” we could not find enough young professionals such as geologists, mining engineers, metallurgists or technicians for the work that needed to be done. Similarly we were hurt by a dearth of young mining executives due to the “lost generation” of the eighties when many mining graduates abandoned the industry in that downturn. At the time, we called for universities and colleges to open up their mining programs and get active in recruiting young folk. And the students and schools responded.

Now here we are in 2016 in what seems to be the bottom of another harsh downturn in metal prices. Mining companies, focused on driving down their costs, have hiring freezes and layoffs are common. At the same time there has been an upswing of mining graduates to levels not seen since the early 1980s. From meeting some of the young grads, and all I have heard and read, they are having a very hard time finding work.

As advanced as the professions that comprise this sector are, we seem to take our cues from the animal kingdom: when times are hard, we eat our young.

As an industry, we need to find ways to employ these young mining professionals. Mining companies need to be creative and use hiring strategies that are responsible in the long-term while controlling short-terms costs. One methodology promoted at the Toronto CIM Branch is for the mining companies to hire graduates into front line operation jobs – underground mining, surface equipment operation, maintenance and process plant roles – which inevitably open up as site attrition occurs. The young professionals gain hands on knowledge of operations and the ability to work positively as a member of the labour force. When technical roles do eventually open up, there will be skilled people available at the mine sites. On the flip side of the coin, young graduates have to be prepared to apply for and take on labour roles. They have to be willing to go to work in remote sites in the north, where turnover is often highest.

I urge our CIM members to show leadership in getting our young graduates and students jobs. Let’s not kill off another generation of mining young!

Michael Winship
CIM President

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