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Editorial comment

In the late 2000s, Canadian mining employers competed for talent and gave new graduates access to ample employment opportunities in the sector. However, the situation changed in 2008 as a result of the global financial crisis, and from 2008 - 2016, the sector experienced significant volatility as global mineral and metal prices fluctuated. This volatility limited employers’ ability to both hire and retain workers, and determine future hiring requirements.

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Since then, the economic outlook for Canada’s mining industry has been steadily improving. However, there are still a number of current and emerging human resource challenges facing the mining sector.

As the Mining Industry Human Resources Council’s (MiHR) 2020 Canadian Mining Labour Market 10 Year Outlook indicates, employment has grown each year since 2015. However, forecasts indicate that the sector needs to hire approximately 80 000 workers by 2030 to remain sustainable. Roughly 60 000 workers are predicted to leave the sector over the next decade, with retirements holding the greatest threat to the mining labour market. There are also a limited number of youth entering the industry, and a significant under-representation of groups such as women and immigrants. Current employees are also more limited in job mobility due to the remote nature of mining operations and a lack of training and accredidation for unskilled workers.

Further exacerbating this situation, new technology and innovation will increasingly impact the workforce, and employers will need to be aware of industry trends to remain sustainable, productive and globally competitive. In the future, most job openings are likely to be in production and maintenance occupations, with hiring gaps forecasted for supervisors, coordinators and support workers.

With innovative technologies becoming commonplace, engineering, sciences and more technologically advanced trades and maintenance skills will be increasingly required. Future demands will force mining companies to compete for talent within the sector and across other sectors of the economy.

Employers will need to invest in upskilling their workforce to remain productive and competitive. Recognising the importance of skills and training, several mining employers are validating the skills, knowledge and experience of their workers through MiHR’s Canadian Mining Certification Program. Also, by providing work-integrated learning, internships and cooperative opportunities for students, employers are better positioned to attract and equip the next generation of mining workers and promote a diverse and inclusive workplace.

MiHR has experience researching industry trends and developing resources, programmes and tools to address the human resource and labour market challenges being faced by the Canadian minerals and metals sector.

As students and youth are vital to ensuring the sustainability of the industry, its collaborative engagement includes the development of a national career awareness strategy. Furthermore, to better understand how new technologies will impact the mining workforce, MiHR will be releasing the findings of a two year study on the changing nature of work.