Combating Labour Shortages With Technology

One of the most pressing issues facing the Canadian resource and mining sector is an ongoing skilled labour shortage, something that’s expected to get worse as baby boomers continue retiring. It’s estimated that the Canadian resource and mining sector will lose one third of its workforce by 2020, leaving a major gap for mining companies.

The lack of employable talent is in many ways a direct result of universities closing a number of resource engineering programs across Canada in the 1980s and 1990s. While many programs have recently been reintroduced, it does little to quell the fact that within Generation X, there is a disproportionate loss of skilled labour candidates.

As the Canadian Mining Journal highlights, the majority of the resource industry employees are over 50 and under 35. “The rather small contingent of Generation Xers is largely due to the fact that the mining industry was going through a protracted downturn during the time when most of that group was graduating,” writes resource sector HR specialist Mary Murray.

The lack of labour between the ages of 35 and 50 is causing strain throughout the industry. Murray worries the trend could be repeated among the youngest Millennials, if a concerted effort isn’t adopted to entice students to study resource engineering.

The resource sector is a crucial element of the Canadian economy, with 20 percent of the country’s GDP arising from mining. Over the next ten years, the federal government has forecasted that projects in the natural resource sector will bring in more than $700 billion worth of investments. That proves a robust resource and the mining sector is crucial for Canada’s long-term growth strategies.

While there has been a 56 percent increase in enrollment in mining and minerals engineering programs, there is still a shortage of metallurgy and metallurgical engineering programs. In order to offset the skilled labour shortage, resource companies are going to be looking for tech innovations that can offer solutions to the growing problem.

By adopting emerging technologies, the mining and resource industry can have better control over testing and drilling. Technology also offers less invasive ways to test for precious metals and resources. This can enhance sustainability, while also driving down costs from superfluous drilling.

Technology has come a long way since I began working in mining and I have seen first-hand how advancements can boost production and operational efficiency.

In order to sustain economic growth, Canada needs the mining and resource industry and that means embracing technological integration. If Canada is to remain competitive in the world resource market, these issues need to be addressed sooner than later.