If you’re searching jobs, the mining industry has them. Lots of them.
The average age of the mining workforce is over 45 years, compared to the national average of 41 years. In addition, the proportion of the workforce over 50 is two to five times greater than that under 30.
Thanks to its aging workforce and widespread retirement, Canada’s mining industry will shed 40% of its workforce over the next six years and need to hire about 10,000 workers per year between now and 2021 (MiHR, 2012).
High growth, high tech careers in mining
It’s not just about getting a job, though. There is a real push from within the mining industry to train and mentor new grads before the older workers leave the industry completely and take their decades of knowledge and experience with them.
“Most of the industry is preparing for or in the process of retiring, which means that there are opportunities for young people to advance more quickly than ever before.” —Melanie Sturk, Director of Attraction, Retention and Transition, Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR)
According to Melanie Sturk, Director of Attraction, Retention and Transition at the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR), this means that young, educated workers entering the mining industry are in a very strong position. “Most of the industry is preparing for or in the process of retiring, which means that there are opportunities for young people to advance more quickly than ever before,” she says. “There’s also a lot of opportunity for travel and adventure with international companies.”
Recent graduates are also in a unique position to be among the first to use the innovative technology that has become an integral part of the mining industry in recent years, Melanie says. “Young people might not realize how exciting a career in mining can be – we often conjure a certain image of an individual working underground; however that is not necessarily the reality of mining careers today” – especially for those with college or university education.
Melanie says that robotics and remote control technology are changing the work environment in mining: “Instead of being on the mine site, there’s the potential to be operating this equipment above ground and in an urban centre.” This technology also means that mining careers are safer and more sustainable than ever before.
The Top 3 ways to prepare for a mining career
Figure out which commodity and region you want to work in
Mining is truly a national industry, with operations in nearly every part of the country, including the North. However, each region and the commodities contained within it can be very different in terms of the work environment and career opportunities available. Find out which jobs are in-demand in the mining industry.
Canada has historically been a world leader in the production of potash (salts containing potassium that are most commonly used in fertilizers) and uranium, and near the top in nickel production. There are many other commodities to choose from, however, including coal, gold, iron ore and copper, which occupy the top five minerals by value of production along with potash, according to the Mining Association of Canada. Diamonds, sand and gravel, and cement are also among the top 10 minerals produced in Canada.
Ask yourself: Which commodity appeals most to you? Which processes are used to produce that mineral and how might that impact your work?
You can also find out where in Canada you might be in demand by using MiHR’s Employment Forecasting Tool. Select a region and occupation to compare where your skills and education are needed most.
Get involved in the industry
As a college or university student, there are plenty of ways to get involved and learn about the mining industry first-hand. “Joining organizations like the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum’s (CIM) student chapters, Women In Mining (WIM) Canada – is one important way to get connected,” Melanie says.
CIM and constituent organization The Metallurgy and Materials Society (MetSoc) currently have student chapters at eight universities across Canada, including Queen’s, University of Saskatchewan, McGill, UBC, Laurentian, Memorial University, Université Laval and University of Windsor.
Student memberships to many of these associations are often affordable or free, and they offer opportunities for networking, field trips, learning and professional development, volunteering and more. “Mining companies like to see people who have drive, energy and passion for what they’re doing,” she says. Getting involved also builds key soft skills that employers are looking for, such as teamwork, communication and leadership.
Network with mining industry professionals in person and online
“Perhaps even more important is actually meeting and interfacing with people either through networking, by going to events, or through social media,” Melanie says. “Make sure the industry knows you even before you graduate and, of course, that also gives you an avenue to ask questions.”
Another way MiHR is facilitating interactions between students and industry professionals is through its Virtual MineMentor Program, an online portal that connects post-secondary students with workers in the mining industry. Students and potential mentors create profiles which are then matched by a MiHR co-ordinator so they can begin the virtual mentoring process through Skype, email and instant messaging. “Geography is such a challenge in our industry when it comes to connecting prospective career seekers with the industry, so this is our way of getting around that,” she says.
Melanie adds that mentees can ask their mentors for advice about everything from what life is like at a mining operation to what kind of boots they should buy to work in the Northwest Territories.