A torrent of retirements over the next 10 years is poised to wreak havoc on the mining labour market in Canada.
While the unemployment rate in mining, quarrying and oil and gas has improved in 2017 from the summer of 2016 – from 10% to 7% – the next decade is going to be challenging for the industry as it seeks to replace older workers who are turning in their coveralls and enjoying their golden years. So says a new report from the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR), which projects 87,830 workers will need to be hired over the next decade under a baseline scenario. If mining expands, the need for miners and associated professions climbs to 130,410, and under a contraction, shrinks to 43,200.
“One of the most significant challenges facing Canada’s mining industry is establishing a sustainable supply of labour that is able to withstand the economic volatility that characterizes the sector,” notes the report. The report suggests that there will be a 47% gap (demand exceeds supply) for technical occupations, 56% for supervisors and foremen, 18% for skilled trades and 10% for production workers.
According to MiHR’s forecasts, the industry will need to hire roughly 18,210 people in these occupations from 2018 to 2027, but is only expected to secure 8,670 new entrants, leaving a total gap of 9,540 – meaning about half of all vacancies will go unfilled.
“This poses a significant risk to mining operations, given that a thin labour supply has the potential to derail projects, drive up the cost of finding workers and ultimately undermine an operation’s ability to run competitively,” reads an executive summary of the report.
That obviously calls for a new generation in mining, with key education programs needed to improve the labour supply.
“The incoming generation of new entrants are vitally important to the health of mining’s future labour supply, especially prospective students,” says the report.
It noted nearly half (47%) of hiring requirements will be met by retiring workers, which places a significant burden on employers.
“Each retiree takes with them a unique set of skills and knowledge, and those leaving with experience create a void that is difficult to fill,” says MiHR.
Factors exacerbating the tight mining labour market include: