If you’re a kid growing up in Toronto or any number of Canadian cities and someone asks you what you want to be when you grow up, it’s highly unlikely that mining engineer or geologist will come to mind.
Most kids in Canada are exposed to teachers, doctors, nurses and bus drivers – hardly ever to miners, engineers, geologists, welders and millwrights.
As a country, we produce more teachers than there are jobs, while Mining Engineering programs in Canadian universities struggle to recruit students and mining suppliers struggle to hire welders, millwrights and mechanics.
According to the Mining Industry Human Resources Council, the Canadian mining industry will have to hire up to 130,000 workers over the next 10 years– a tall order indeed. The projected shortage of workers, it claims, “poses a significant risk to mining operations, given that a thin labour supply has the potential to derail projects… and undermine an operation’s ability to run competitively.”
It’s not hard though to get kids interested in mining if they know someone who’s in the industry. Mine shafts descending thousands of metres through the Canadian Shield, kilometres and kilometres of underground tunnels traversed by haul trucks, loaders and drills, and explosions to fracture the ore certainly made an impression on my six-year-old grandson Samuel.
His interest was first aroused when I read him Theresa Nyabeze’s, children’s book, “Underground, My Mining Adventure.” He was five at the time and bugged me for a year to take him to a mine. One day, he asked me to show him some pictures of mines, so we went on YouTube and spent more than an hour watching videos of underground mining operations. I never imagined that mining videos on YouTube could compete with Peppa the Pig or Bob the Builder, but Samuel loved it. In August, we made arrangements with Alicia Woods of Covergalls to supply him with coveralls and a hard hat, and visited Dynamic Earth. It was the highlight of his summer.
We also made arrangements to have the PDAC’s Mining Matters program delivered at his school in Toronto.
Mining Matters brings knowledge and awareness about Canada’s geology and mineral resources to students, educators and the public through school visits, educational resources and outreach activities. Since 1994, its programs have touched an estimated 700,000 teachers, students and members of the public.
Solving the human resources challenge in the mining industry won’t be easy, but we have a great story to tell. We just have to tell it.