Canadian Manufacturing

The mining labour gap is closing, but not because the problem is solved

MiHR report warns of labour shortages as economy recovers



OTTAWA— The recent downturn in the mining industry has taken pressure off the immediate hiring requirements for the sector, but a new Mining Industry Human Resources Council report reveals several indicators that point to what can only be termed as a malfunctioning labour market.

The report outlines that the mining labour market is much tighter than for other sectors; for every job vacancy in mining, there are less than three potential job-seekers across Canada, compared to the average of six job-seekers per vacancy for all other industries. This is one of several labour market indicators that point to the mining labour market inefficiencies.

“A tight labour market puts upward pressure on wages and salaries, as employers compete for a limited supply of skilled workers,” MiHR executive director Ryan Montpellier said. “Earnings in the mining sector have increased nearly 40 per cent in the last decade – significantly more than the average for all sectors in Canada. Layered on to this is mining’s volatile business cycle and the challenges of recruiting people to rural or remote mining operations.

“If unresolved, this labour market tightness has the potential to undermine the competitiveness of Canada’s mining sector when the cycle does rebound,” he added.

Less competition among job seekers is an issue for the mining industry, but a good news story for people considering a career in mining. About 95 per cent of mining jobs are full-time, and the average weekly earnings of salaried mining industry employees are anywhere between 25 and 60 per cent higher than those in other sectors.

Further evidence of labour market tightness is dependence on a commuter workforce – those who live in one province but work in another. This is a mining specific challenge: mining employers are three times more likely to use commuting workers than any other industry in Canada. Employers have made significant efforts to address this by building a local workforce through the attraction of Aboriginal peoples, but MiHR research shows that this effort is constrained for a variety of reasons including that up to one in four Aboriginal people of working age do not actually participate in the labour force.

“The current market conditions have softened the gap between hiring requirements and available talent, but we are not out of the woods yet. MiHR’s research shows that the Canadian industry will need to hire between 86,000 and 127,000 new workers over the next ten years, depending on the economic outlook and industry performance,” Montpellier said.

Some of the biggest gaps expected over the next decade are anticipated to be in trades and production positions, particularly underground miners, as well as machine operators and mine labourers. There’s also expected to be a shortage of scientists, engineers and technicians in the industry across Canada.

“MiHR’s research demonstrates the immediate need for governments, educators and employers to work together to address the major human resource challenges facing Canada’s mining industry,” Pierre Gratton, President and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada, said.

“The mining industry is doing a lot of work to attract, recruit, develop and retain workers across Canada,” Montpellier said. “However, more can and should be done to improve on these efforts if the industry is to be prepared for the next economic cycle.”

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