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Current employment trends in the mining industry
- Aug 08, 2018 -

Spotlight on Lucy Donald, Director of WRS Mining Division

We asked Lucy Donald, Director of WRS Mining Division to demonstrate through her leadership, expertise and knowledge of the employment space in mining, to talk about current employment trends in mining, and to give us a sneak preview of what she feels will be relevant in the foreseeable future.

 What do you see as being the single biggest challenge facing recruiters in mining in 2018?

It is probably not a case of a single challenge, but rather a set of interconnected challenges which follow the complex and cyclical nature of the mining industry. With the industry showing signs of growth, the job market is becoming candidate driven, creating a highly competitive environment in which recruiters, candidates and employers need to operate.

The downturn in the sector, from which we are now slowly recovering, would appear to have compounded the ongoing skills gap with many mining professionals choosing to leave the industry, to start their own consultancies or to take early retirement.

The mining industry and the infrastructure surrounding the industry need to work together to adapt to these market challenges, which is why, at WRS, we have used our specialist mining industry knowledge and experience to examine, monitor and learn from previous trends and cycles. This approach has allowed us to share our learnings with our clients, so that we can work together to create future proof recruitment strategies to help avoid costly downtime on projects due to lack of manpower.

 Do you see mining jobs becoming less in demand as digitalisation technologies such as AI, big data online platforms and computers that communicate with each other grow? And if so, do you have any advice for those in mining, so as not to be squeezed out of the market?

 Next generation, digital and biological technologies seem set to revolutionise the mining industry in ways which we would have thought unimaginable a decade ago. The Internet of Things (IoT) is already being used by the mining industry to collect, collate and share valuable data from equipment and appliances in real-time anywhere in the world for instantaneous analysis.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used to support the supply chain and logistics sector with autonomous railways now in use and giant autonomous cargo ships envisioned for deployment by some operators within the next 10 years. Furthermore, drones can now perform in-situ scanning, Nano-bots, using genetically modified bacteria, have molecular level mining capabilities and deep-sea robots can now mine underwater at great depth.

It is clear that these technologies will have an impact on some of the traditional roles within mining over time. However, it is important to remember that to adopt all of these technologies would requires a great deal of investment and to retro-fit existing operations would be highly costly. So, whilst operators and employees alike should be prepared for the integration of new technology into day-to-day operations, it likely to be some time before new technology completely replaces traditional job roles.

Furthermore, recent studies have shown that rather than roles being lost due to digitalisation, more roles have been created, leading to positive outcomes for workers such as improved safety, flexibility of hours and location, all of which lead to a more engaged and diverse workforce.

  Is the skills shortage that is predicted to hit the mining industry in the next 10 years due to an aging workforce in Canada, such an issue in other regions of the world from your experience? And if so where?

 Recent studies have shown that the mining industry is facing a skills shortage worldwide, following exponential growth in production, to meet the rising demand from China. Other factors such as complex rules and regulations related to obtaining VISA’s in Middle Eastern countries create limitations in the available pool of candidates with the specialist skills required by employers.

Furthermore, the global retirement wave has meant that in many countries including the African continent, up to 50 per cent of workers are nearing retirement age. However, the positive and long-term approach, which has been adopted by many operators within the sector, looks set to pay off.

In order to bridge the forecast skills gap, the mining industry has actively engaged with local governments and educational facilities to offer skills development programs in primary, through to tertiary education levels to include apprenticeships and hands-on skills development.

This investment seems to demonstrate that the mining industry is working hard to create a sustainable and rewarding career path for those that are considering joining the sector. To further support this, the changes in technology and human resources (HR) policies are allowing for increases in the available talent pool. The industry is putting measures in place to challenge the perceptions of a ‘tough’ working environment, which are often associated with the sector, to encourage a new generation of talent into the workforce.

 To what extent do you rely on AI candidate screening?  (automated and machine-learning algorithms which are used to screen CVs and communicate with candidates)? And if so do you find it more helpful than the traditional methods of candidate screening?

 AI can offer a number of potential benefits to the recruitment process including rapid and focused candidate screening, using ‘machine learning’ capabilities to develop algorithms showing common traits shared by a company’s existing, successful hires. AI has also been cited as an efficient tool for dealing with and reducing unconscious bias to expand candidate reach and increase potential talent pools.

At WRS, we look at AI as a support mechanism to human capabilities rather than a replacement for them. It is a fact that human interaction to help and support our people who are moving through the recruitment process, is still a major benefit. Our candidates rely on our specialist knowledge and experience in the recruitment industry to help them reach their desired career goals and aspirations.

Clients benefit from working closely with a dedicated account team at WRS, who over time, build extremely close relationships with client contacts and are looked upon as an extension to the existing internal recruitment function. This knowledge allows us to find the people with not only the relevant specialist skills for the role, but to source candidates who will thrive within a company’s individual culture and ethos.

 Diversity has been earmarked as one of the most pressing issues in the minds of many hiring managers, do you feel that sufficient inroads are being made into addressing this issue?

 Diversity is a common recruitment challenge in the mining industry for a variety of reasons including, safety, location and shift patterns. However, we are now seeing that many companies recognise that this has the potential to limit the talent pool and are shifting emphasis by placing diversity at the heart of their HR effort. Much research has taken place into the effects of changes to recruitment and HR practice to increase the diversification of skills and talent within its workforce.

Furthermore, ‘Diversity Management’ employment systems have become a methodology increasingly adopted by employers to effectively manage and monitor a more balanced workforce. These practices appear to be bearing fruit, with improved staff retention figures and productivity levels.

 There has been a lot of talk of an upswing in the mining industry, do you feel that the numbers of mining jobs available are in line with this? And if so, is there any particular sector in mining that you are noticing a big increase in available mining jobs?

 Recent figures published show that global spending on exploration in non-ferrous metals has risen, representing the first annual increase in exploration budgets for five years. Growth would appear to be driven by stability in the metals commodity market, in particular by a robust gold sector which, accounts for over half of all non-ferrous metals exploration budgets worldwide.

With this growth our specialist mining team at WRS has begun to see career opportunities in exploration follow suit with related roles for geologists increase by 25 per cent in quarter one in 2018, with placements of geologists accounting for 20 per cent of our current vacancies for the same quarter are also within the geology space. We have not seen comparable performance in these figures since the beginning of the upturn in 2010/2011.

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