The Millennial Miner: A reality or delusion
By: Tom Woerdeman, Safety Director, Transit Mix Concrete
Mining and Employee Recruitment
With a new generation now entering and moving up in the ranks of industries, mine operators need to consider their stance on the white elephant in the room; recruitment. Many industries including mining are struggling to recruit and retain young workers in their operations. Is this the fault of the industry or the societal view/ understanding on mining?
In either case, the mining industry must find ways to increase outreach and recruitment of young workers for the survival of our industry. This, while easier in some areas with the increased usage of technology in modern mining, can be difficult when focusing on the “backbone” of any mining operation; the operations personnel.
Promoting the use of new technology such as drones, digitization of equipment, and technology based support positions may help. For example, we can recruit young technicians to work on heavy equipment that is more electronic/ computerized than mechanical and utilizes electric drive motors and diesel generating engines as its powertrain.
Another example is the use of computer controlled mobile equipment where a traditional operator is not needed. One dispatcher controls numerous haul trucks remotely from an office. These can be draws to our industry, but still does not address the bigger issue of recruiting other entry level operations personnel.
The Millennial, The Career Path and A Living Wage
Millennials, for most of their adult lives, have received much pressure to obtain a college degree for a “quality career”. In many cases, this forces them to go into large amounts of debt only to make mediocre wages after graduation. The mining industry must follow suit with the other skilled trades by promoting younger generations to start making a quality wage earlier without the potential massive debt of college.
While the mining industry needs staff that has college degrees, such as mining engineers as well as staff dealing with regulatory bodies, this is usually a small percentage of the staff in a mining organization. As a millennial myself, I have witnessed this firsthand and see a generation that greatly focuses on technology and instant gratification.
Instant gratification may be an avenue to promote how you can ultimately make more money from working in the mining industry, without a college degree, than the national average of college graduates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics¹, Nonsupervisory miners average an hourly rate of $26.64 with an average 43.5 hour week as of January 2018. This comes to an average annual salary of $60,259. Comparatively, according to the U.S. department of Education², the 2015 average young adult with a bachelor’s degree earned $50,000 per year. How do we as an industry highlight the importance and draw of mining?
I think it starts with educating the masses that mining is not just coal or gold mining. That most daily activities and items would not function or be in existence if it were not for mining. Whether its construction sand and gravel or molybdenum, mining is an essential function of modern societal desires and needs. For easier terms, we must change our image and continue to improve practices. This growing problem is something we as an industry can and must overcome together.