05-17-12The global mining industry is thriving, and job-seeking undergraduates are pouncing on the boom while the sector remains viable. Applications to prestigious mining schools in Canada have tripled in the last decade as those enrolled are almost always guaranteed employment, with scholars ruminating upon at least one job offer or more prior to graduation.
North American institutions, such as the prestigious Colorado School of Mines, have limited their acceptance rates—admitting only 1000 fortunate few amongst the 11 000 that it receives annually.
Recruiting and retaining domestic workers is expensive. The modest but proliferating number of entry-level job-seekers in the industry, who can command salaries of at an average of $64,000, emphasize the prevailing concern that mining companies face in terms of the sector’s inadequate supply of skilled labour to sustain its growth.
Home-grown talent can only remedy the labour shortage to a certain extent. The mining sector’s boom has catalyzed a persistent skilled labour shortage, which is reinforced by Canada’s aging workforce and the brain drain towards countries that offer more promising prospects. With companies overseas promising six-figure salaries a year to mid-career engineers, it is no wonder why Canada is looking towards its immigration offices to recruit skilled workers from abroad.
Canada must quickly address its skills shortage in order to maintain its competitive edge on the international playing field. Failure to do so will translate into the abandonment or delay of several projects, which will encumber efforts to industrialize as the global supply of the world’s metal resources dwindles at an unparalleled pace. It will be interesting to observe whether Canada’s metamorphosing immigration policy will construct future opportunities for the mining sector’s skilled labourers to obtain work permits, given that the country’s popular Federal Skilled Worker program has reached its threshold and that Ottawa has also imposed quotas on similar provincial nomination programs.
Allowing international students to access study permits may remedy the problem, as it will ensure that bright and enthusiastic newcomers receive training from accredited Canadian institutions. Ultimately it will address the labour shortage by making it easier for them to obtain work permits and permanent residency, facilitating their integration into Canadian society.
But if immigration is the solution, perhaps Immigration Minister Jason Kenney should be cautious about his proposed reforms to the Canadian system, as his new language proficiency standard may deter talented foreign workers who may have otherwise helped to ameliorate Canada’s position in the prosperous but delicate mining industry.
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