There is no mining without human resources. People are ultimately what mining is all about. People to plan and run the mines. People to buy, enjoy, and benefit from the mine’s products. And people affected, for better or worse, by mines.

Human resources is the discipline dealing with employing people. Mining for the Future is the website of the Canadian Mining Industry Human Resources Council. Their vision is to be “the recognized leader in the development of solutions to national human resources challenges facing the mining industry.” And why shouldn’t a Canadian organization take the lead world-wide.

The Council has two projects currently underway. The first is to develop new national occupational standards for underground mine workers, surface mine workers, and mineral processing workers. Basically the standards will be a list of required core competencies, skills, and knowledge. The second project is organizing the Mining in Society show. I have not seen the show but it is described thus: “This educational and interactive show about the minerals industry reaches out to the general public to help develop appreciation and understanding of the minerals industry, while attracting positive attention and focusing on student growth.”

The Council in 2005 published a comprehensive report Prospecting the Future: Meeting Human Resource Challenges in the Canadian Minerals and Metals Industry. I would be fascinating to hear the outcome and progress in 2007 of the reports findings and recommendations.

The Council’s website includes a list of useful links, news items, and a very brief mining industry overview. This latter brims with enthusiasm. Here is what they say about people in the mining industry: “The mining industry relies on intelligent, educated, dedicated, enthusiastic, inquisitive and optimistic individuals. Educators, prospectors, geoscientists, engineers, financiers, accountants, environmentalists, lawyers, marketers and skilled workers work in the mines, processing plants, smelters and refineries using the most modern equipment and technology. Jobs in the industry offer competitive wages and benefits, and advancement opportunities.”

Then there is this new release I received today from Toronto and the PDAC.

The Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) got a $2.5-million boost in its efforts to attract, retain and educate skilled workers in the mining industry today from the federal government at the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Convention. The funding is expected to address the critical 80,000 worker shortage the mining industry faces in the next decade through MiHR’s three-year Mining Attraction, Recruitment and Retention Strategy (MARS) project to attract new recruits.

“There are many rewarding and exciting career opportunities just waiting to be realized in today’s mining industry,” said Paul Hebert, Executive Director of MiHR. “We face the challenge of filling up to 80,000 jobs within the next ten years and will succeed only if we can attract more people, including women, Aboriginals and new Canadians. MARS’ mission is to help industry find the right people with the right skills at the right time.”

The mining industry expects a shortage of skilled workers in a variety of occupations, from mining engineers, geologists and trades people to miners and support workers. MARS will introduce Canadians to potential careers in the industry through its website, http://www.acareerinmining.ca/. The MARS program also offers hands-on classroom resources linked to provincial curriculum, a summer employment strategy for students and industry-led outreach activities such as a speaker’s bureau with a toolkit and best practices guidebook for employers to facilitate recruitment and retention. Created and driven by MiHR, MARS marks the first time a coordinated government and industry effort has been made to tackle this serious shortage in the mining industry.

“Up until now, the mining industry’s efforts to attract and retain workers has been uncoordinated,” said Ingrid Hann, Vice President, Human Resources, De Beers Canada and MiHR Board Member. “MARS will coordinate industry-wide efforts to increase the pool of workers and skills so that the entire mining industry’s needs may be met over the long term.”

MARS project activities also include researching and disseminating best practices in recruiting and retaining non-traditional sources of labor such as Aboriginal people, women, new Canadians, retirees and expatriates of the mining industry. Potential new workers will benefit from training and mentoring programs designed to keep entrants engaged in the industry for the long-term.

“MiHR’s work with experienced workers to capture their knowledge and integrate it into training materials for new entrants will help ensure that tomorrow’s workforce is safe and productive,” said Peter Harkins, CAW Local 599 and Chair of MiHR’s Board of Directors.

The MARS project will also include a pan-Canadian mentorship program, web-based marketing campaign targeting Canadian youth and career path and knowledge-capture videos.

Here is a longer description of the MARS Project (Mining Attraction, Recruitment and Retention Strategy)

The Mining Attraction, Recruitment and Retention Strategy (MARS) is a three-year project designed to address the current and expected skills shortage in the Canadian minerals and metals industry. This $2.5 Million project will:

· Help industry attract, recruit and retain a skilled workforce

· Increase participation of under-represented groups in the mining workforce (women, aboriginal people, immigrants, retirees, etc.)

· Dispel myths and misconceptions of the mining industry widely held by youth, parents, educators and career counselors

· Inform and educate Canadians about the wide range of rewarding career opportunities in the modern mining industry

· Promote and build upon industry best practices in workforce planning

Throughout the project, a series of information tools for potential new entrants to the mining industry will be developed and labour force attraction activities will be carried out. These activities will be accomplished through extensive communications activities such as media and public relations, promotions, internet marketing, special events and grassroots initiatives with industry partners. Project activities will also include researching and cataloguing best practices and potential pitfalls in recruiting and retaining non-traditional sources of labour.

Project Deliverables

· Career path and knowledge capture videos

· Pan-Canadian mentorship program

· Targeted mining career presentations, a speakers toolkit including class room resources and a national mining industry speakers’ bureau

· Best practices guidebook for employers to facilitate recruitment and retention

· Mining related educational content linked to provincial curriculum, including hands-on / in-class resources for teachers

· Web-based marketing campaign targeting Canadian youth

· Summer employment strategy to improve summer employment opportunities for students

· Employer guides for school site visits and for developing apprenticeship programs

· Web portal on mining careers, educational resources and training tools

MARS Outcomes

· Increased awareness, and improved perception of the mining sector

· Increased delivery of earth sciences and mining related curriculum

· Increased awareness among Canadians of mining career opportunities

· Increased enrolment in mining related post-secondary programs

· Improved industry workforce planning

· Improved linkages between students and mining industry employers

· Improved training content and knowledge capture mechanisms

· Employers better equipped, informed and able to engage a broader spectrum of the potential workforce