How to attract new (and skilled) professionals to the mining and metals industry

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In many industries, the aging workforce combined with the lack of qualified new professionals arriving to those industries has become a major problem. Some studies believe that the gap between required workforce and available applicants will be close to 30% in the mining industry.

Today, the challenge is escalated since traditional companies are competing against new trending technologies and industries that seem to offer the dream of an interesting job with a good income. Who doesn’t want to develop a $1 app for a tablet and sell it to a million people?

So, how can people with new competencies be recruited into more traditional industries? – The answer isn’t easy but, I see two ways to do that through automation and digitization.

A fully automated mining operation presents the same characteristics as many industries that are thought of as ‘high-tech’. In addition, process automation has become much more software driven than hardware driven. Operations personnel now focus on the process visualization tools if something isn’t right or requires improvement. Moving forward, technologies used for power and energy management will continue to be software-based.

The integration of different automated systems and production disciplines within our industry over the past few years has become a major shift in how plants are run and created new requirements for the people who work in them.

Heavy mining and metals operations are already strongly IT and data driven. I see the increased use of innovative software tools and gadgets as a drive to attract younger people eager for hi-tech challenges. Some of these technologies are already commercially available, but not fully explored on the plant floor.

And what is the potential role of social media, apps, tablets, and mobile technology?

In a digital operation, we are moving people from risky operations to supervise such operations remotely, so mobility will be a key requirement for those operations. In addition, dedicated portals and social media tools will be useful to foster interaction between teams from different locations or countries to exchange technology and best practices.

Since market uncertainty is the only certainty, the digital operation will also bring real-time information and powerful forecasting tools about the market, commodities, weather, and any external influences that may impact the operations and integrate them with the operations information.

What have you seen as major influences in your recruitment of young, skilled workers? Let’s have a discussion in the comments section below.

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  • Martin Gallardo

    11 years ago

    I’m a young professional livinig in country defined by MMM market, and one of the first difficults is the hard work related to mining… do you think a young (and skilled) professional wants to stay in a mining camp for 15 days then 10 days at home, and agiain 15 days in the dryer desert in the world… it a hard desition… the only thing that move professionals into a mining operation is money, unfortunately in my country, the salary of a mining professional rise above 3 o 4 times the salary of the same professional in the city… in Chile the question is… do you really want to work in a so hard industry? the money here (unfortunately) is the only answer…

    • Fabio Mielli

      11 years ago

      Hello Martin

      I agree: In my opinion,this is a big concern that involve remote / isolated operations (sometimes called extreme mining) ; Today some mining companies are working and trying hard to reduce the people presence in such hostile environments and operate the mine remotely from centralized operations / control rooms (in better working conditions) – The dream mine is to have those remote operations completely autonomous and I’m sure one day we will get there.


  • Francisco Silva

    11 years ago

    I agree with both comments, and I’d like to expand it with another perspective. I come from the metals industry (steel & aluminum), which are traditional also in terms of career growth, usually characterized as a slow pacing process because it takes time to acquire the technical knowledge. But the younger generation, as well as mine, seeks a faster path, which is not fulfilled in most cases, and results in younger talents seeking opportunities in a different business.

  • That’s right Francisco, the youngest generations (i’m part of that too) are seeking fast rewards in anything they are doing, but i think that’s part of this globalized world in wich everybody wants to be succesful at the moment of leave the university.

    We should be more responsible and try to teach that success is not a must for today, is a reward for hard study, hard job and for love your career… In fact in MMM it’s harder to be successful because, as a mine operation, there are a lot of different barriers to jump to get the ore, but at the end the rewards is more valuable…

  • I’ve been working in the Industiral Automation Industry for about 20 years. I’ve been a plant engineer, consulting engineer, and now an OEM engineer. The life of a traveling engineer is tough. I’m 47 and it isn’t getting easier. There is only so much control you can do remotely. Somebody is always going to have to do the dirty work. Somebody will always have to go to the field to fix things. Our company trys to balance field work, family, and money. The mining industry is never going to be able to completely get rid of boots on the ground but they maybe able to manage thier logistics and rotate people to reduce the personel presence on the job site. The danger is that your people can loose experience by not getting the constant ongoing hands on training with new technology.

  • Willie Nelson wrote a song called “Mothers don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.” If I were to write a song along the same lines I would call it “Mothers don’t let your babies grow up to be be skilled workers in the USA.” I teach skills in many of America’s largest companies, and quite frankly, it’s embarrassing the way skilled workers are treated. I am going to use my most recent training experience to make my point.
    Last week, I was teaching at an international company that has over 50,000 employees. I was teaching a group of the company’s “blue collar” workers a course that saves lives and increases productivity, while upstairs, an instructor was teaching a group of the company’s “white collar” workers a soft-skills course.
    I am sure the “blue collar” workers noticed the blatant discrimination against them:
    Three-day soft-skills (white collar) attendees:
    • Beautifully designed training room
    • Ergonomically designed, cushioned seating
    • Piping hot breakfast with fresh fruit, orange juice, and choice of sausage or bacon with eggs.
    • Catered hot lunch with fresh vegetables rolls and salad
    • Noiseless environment
    • Room cleaned each day and garbage cans emptied
    Five-day skills training (blue-collar) attendees:
    • Room adjacent to working warehouse with forklifts constantly driving by
    • No janitorial service – room was never cleaned to begin with
    • Extremely cramped
    • Box of donuts for breakfast
    • Hard plastic chairs
    • No whiteboard
    • Boxed cold sandwiches for lunch
    • No janitorial service – by Friday flies hovering around garbage cans
    • Constant noise
    • Separate eating areas
    “Blue-collar” workers had to walk through the breakfast and lunch eating area of the “white collar” workers to gain access to their eating area.
    More than 95% of the international companies I work for won’t even buy their skilled workers a box of donuts.
    I have worked for the largest mining and metal companies in the US. If these industries want to attract skilled workers, I highly recommend that they begin by treating the one’s they currently have with dignity and respect.
    Choosing a career as a “blue-collar” worker in America is, in my opinion, choosing a lifetime of discrimination. There’s good reason why America’s youths are steering clear of skilled jobs – they are listening to their “blue-collar” parents.
    Rory S. McLaren

  • تدریس خصوصی توسط نخبگان دانشگاهی

    11 years ago

    Thanks for the good writeup. It actually used to be a enjoyment account it. Glance advanced to more added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we keep up a correspondence?

  • tnx Was useful

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