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.