Minding the “widening” skills gap in mining
In the monumental battle for talent, how well mining companies plan, partner and harness technology will impact their future productivity and ability to thrive.
Deloitte Canada and NORCAT have a strategic alliance that combines on-the-ground insight from companies with emerging technologies installed at the NORCAT Underground Centre and the market knowledge of Deloitte’s global mining industry team. NORCAT is the world’s only non-profit regional innovation centre with an operating mine, allowing companies to develop, test, and showcase emerging technologies.
Building on our Tracking the Trends 2022 report, and on Trend 5 of the report: Evolving mining’s world of work, the following briefing examines how mining companies needs to address the shifting world of work and navigate the impending talent crunch.
Mining’s shifting landscape
Mining and metals organisations are used to grinding through challenging economic times but attracting and retaining the right talent with the right skill sets will become one of their hardest boulders to crack yet. As the industry continues to invest in digitisation and automation to drive efficiencies, true value creation will only be achieved by those organisations who prioritise future talent supply as an immediate strategic priority as the demand for talent is poised to exponentially escalate as the much talked about mining supercycle plays out.
Rising global demand for critical minerals and materials to power the clean energy transition and the fact that one in four miners is set to retire are compounding the labor shortage in the Canadian mining industry, which is projected to need to hire some 80,000 workers by 2030. Within this broader context, hiring and upskilling talent with the right knowledge, skills and competencies will be critical to unlock value. Organisations will need to start by examining existing career pathways to attract, and importantly retain and develop their talent of the future. A starting point is to understand the work that needs to get done, what competencies and capabilities will be required, and importantly consider the attractiveness of the workplace environment as new talent searches for careers that promote diversity and inclusion, career progression and hybrid working environments.
COVID-19 has forced a seismic shift in how we work and has thereby accelerated the pace of digital transformation within many, if not all, mining companies. Technological innovations and an increased focus on the enablement of remote operations require different, specialised skills—and the knowledge gap is widening. How the industry adapts to these shifts and exploits technology to drive shareholder value, productivity and asset utilisation are integral to its future success.
Nurturing existing and new sources of talent
Effective strategic workforce planning, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) and training strategies will create the capacity for organisations not only to nurture and grow existing talent, but very soon DE&I will become the magnet for future talent. Using Canada as an example, women comprise approximately half of the population and available labour pool but only approximately 18% of the mining workforce. Although the industry has focused on gender equity for several years, progress has been slow. Fewer than one in five mining leaders today are women, indicative of the untapped talent pool that could contribute to industry advancements. Actively recruiting new Canadians who are often highly educated and bring transferable skills can also close the knowledge gap and support the growth of the business.
In addition, an increasing number of industry players are investing in social programmes to remove education barriers for potential talent worldwide. DE&I also plays an important role in this context, with an emphasis on equity by removing the barriers that prohibit diversity to thrive and the fair and respectful treatment of all people. For the mining industry in Canada and abroad, equity includes laying out a clear career roadmap, access to upskilling, micro-credentials, and vocational training. Beyond individual organisations, the industry needs to partner to develop and enhance access to tertiary education, technical training institutions and community programmes that support diverse learning pathways across a variety of job roles and responsibilities.
It starts with strategic workforce planning
Strategic workforce planning needs to align with the organisations business strategy. Without understanding the business requirements, human resource functions will not be well positioned to meet the supply of talent required to meet the business needs. However, full integration and skills development can be year-long endeavors. It permeates everything, from talent management practices and DE&I initiatives to overall workforce education and human capital plans of action. No matter the mining project phase or activity, a first step is to understand where your organisation is today; what it will take to be prepared for the future; what the work is that needs to get done, what capabilities will be required to perform the work and importantly where will the work take place. Strategic workforce planning plays a critical role in shaping the future of the organisation. Intersecting human resource and workforce plans with operational execution can allow organisations to function seamlessly from day one.
Followed by strong partnerships with higher education institutions
By virtue of the remote locations of many mining operations, meeting local hiring requirements in geographic regions isolated from large pools of skilled workers can be challenging. Increasingly, ecosystems are being formed through partnerships with learning institutions and training facilitators to help build talent both within an organisation and the communities in which it operates. Upskilling local candidates through job readiness programming creates a pipeline for local recruitment. Designing operational-specific learning pathways that incorporate local context allows for a focus on the specific skills needed to meet production targets. Applying a portable skills development approach also has the positive long-term effect of enhancing economic spinoffs within mining communities, further fuelling growth and the availability of top talent.
Enabled by accelerated digital learning solutions
More than half of organisations recently surveyed believe talent shortages hamper their digital transformation. Moving to automation, electrification and digitisation requires continually updating skill sets in areas newer to mining, like diagnostics, robotics, analytics and IT more broadly. These technologies are also reshaping training and development. "For example, AR/VR and equipment simulation are being integrated with traditional education delivery methods for a “blended learning” approach that increases asset utilisation of production equipment in the operating mine and improves the learning experience. Capitalising on technology in education is also cost and time effective in that training can be delivered anywhere, anytime—minimising travel and housing expenses while promoting worker health and safety." says Trina Hayden, Director, NORCAT.
To close the skills gap, close the learning gap
Ultimately education and the accumulation of human capital are interdependent. Aligning education and employer needs ensures a sufficient pool of trained and skilled workers and meets community, government and other stakeholder expectations for how talent and human capital are managed. Janine Nel—Partner, Consulting, Deloitte Canada, says: “To close the gap, organisations will need to identify potential talent pools, invest in upskilling and reskilling to enable day 1 readiness prior to the employee setting foot at a physical location. Not being able to hire and retain a skilled workforce is a significant risk for the industry going forward; however, knowledge is power. The transformational power of education provides endless opportunities for forging a bright future for the mining industry and the people who work in it."
Deloitte Canada and NORCAT have entered into a strategic alliance—that will help the global mining industry better understand the latest mining technology and innovation trends. This unique collaboration will combine the on-the-ground insight from companies with emerging technologies installed at the NORCAT Underground Centre and the market knowledge of Deloitte’s global mining industry team.
Deloitte and NORCAT will work together to develop and distribute thought leadership briefings that highlight, discuss and showcase examples of emerging technologies and innovations. These briefings are poised to contribute to the continuing transformation of the global mining industry.
NORCAT is the only non-profit regional innovation centre in the world that has an operating mine designed to enable start-ups, small/medium enterprises, and international companies to develop, test and showcase new and innovative technologies in an operating mine environment. This unique facility anchors one of the world’s leading advanced manufacturing and mining technology clusters and represents a “one-stop shop” to see future technologies and innovations that are poised to transform the global mining industry.
1 Source: MiHR. Canadian Mining Labour Market 10-Year Outlook 2020. December 2019.
2 Source: Statistics Canada. Labour Force Statistics by Industry 2018.
3 Source: Kuykendall, T., & Darden, K. (2020). Despite diversification efforts, fewer than 1 in 5 mining leaders are women. S&P Global Market Intelligence.
4 Source: Capgemini Digital Transformation Institute/LinkedIn research study, 2017.