Despite the current economic slowdown, Canadian mining companies continue to invest in effective and sustainable training programs to address the skills shortage. Retirement eligibility and the lack of new entrants into the mining sector are just two of the factors contributing to the nearly 150,000 workers across many mining occupations that will be needed by 2023. With over 40 per cent of the workforce being 50 years or older, the industry will need a matrix of training, attraction, retention, and knowledge transfer strategies.
To meet the long-term HR needs of the sector, one of the most important strategies will involve the recruitment of a diverse workforce including immigrants, women, and Aboriginal peoples. Recent research indicates that six per cent of the mining workforce self-identify as being Aboriginal. This young and growing population represents a key group for training and employment opportunities in the mining industry, through the creation of community and employer partnerships which are mutually beneficial.
Collaboration from Education to Employment
According to a recent report from the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) entitled “Lessons Learned: A Report on HR Components of Aboriginal Community and Mining Company Partnership Agreements,” one of the most important aspects of any agreement between industry and community is for both parties to set concrete and realistic goals pertaining to the hiring of local talent. Despite recent improvements, communities and companies often have trouble meeting hiring requirements that are outlined in impact and benefit or partnership agreements. This can occur due to a lack of communication or unrealistic expectations on the part of either group involved.
In fall 2012, MiHR held the Aboriginal Mining Education Forum in order to improve the understanding of issues related to Aboriginal education, as they apply to HR management in mining and mineral exploration, and to the economic development of Aboriginal communities. Delegates from government, education, industry, and Aboriginal communities had the opportunity to network and share their viewpoints in facilitated roundtables. A number of recommendations were created as a result of these discussions, including, but not limited to: the building of trust through cross-cultural understanding, examining and improving basic needs for education and building customized solutions based on each community’s needs.
When focusing on training, forum delegates highlighted the need for community based solutions and reinforced the value of “Mining Essentials: A Work Readiness Training Program for Aboriginal Peoples.” The program was created with the input of companies and Aboriginal communities to help them meet their joint hiring and employment targets through the delivery of training in the community. It provides opportunities for Aboriginal peoples to develop the non-technical skills and the confidence needed to achieve rewarding careers and enables companies to benefit from a local, skilled and empowered workforce whilst also fostering economic development. Mining Essentials is unique in that skills are taught using workplace examples (workplace documents, scenarios, etc…) through traditional and cultural teaching methods (sharing circles, involvement of Elders, etc…). The program is divided between classroom curriculum training and enrichment opportunities (on-site industry visit/work experiences, safety certificate training), to deliver a well-rounded approach to learning. Employers recognize that Mining Essentials prepares graduates for immediate entry into the mining workforce for certain positions, and instills a drive for a long-term career in the mining industry.
Todd Standing, manager of Aboriginal Engagement with Mosaic, has spoken to the effectiveness of Mining Essentials, in light of the recent delivery in Whitewood, Saskatchewan. He explains that, “Graduates finishing the program begin to consider the diverse career opportunities mining has to offer them, as opposed to simply getting them a job. They are able to see the possibilities they just didn’t know of before and it is great to see their confidence grow as they learn.” In the case of this delivery, learners were able to visit a Potash mine in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, thanks to the partnership with Mosaic. Mine site enrichment activities enabled the learners to not only grasp the importance of safety and diligence, but to really understand what it is like to work on-site. Participants in this particular delivery were able to discover how potash is mined and processed, as well as the various ways in which Canadians use it in everyday products. More importantly, they discovered the potential role they could play within the mining industry.
Implemented across Canada
Entering its third year of delivery, Mining Essentials has been implemented across Canada in British Columbia, Ontario, the Northwest Territories, and Saskatchewan. Through support from Employment and Social Development Canada, the program has also been customized for Métis and Inuit communities, in partnership with the Métis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. E-Learning components are also currently under development to offer a blended learning approach to delivery.
Since program inception, approximately 70 per cent of Mining Essentials graduates have secured employment or furthered their mining education within the first six months of graduation. While getting employed is one ideal scenario for Mining Essentials learners, many of them also choose to continue their education or training after they complete the program.
MiHR will continue to expand Mining Essentials across Canada, with future program deliveries under development through emerging partnerships in Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland.
For more information on Mining Essentials, or how to become a training partner, please visit www.aboriginalming.ca or contact Melanie Sturk, Director of Attraction, Retention and Transition at firstname.lastname@example.org.