The mining industry is discussing a strategy to recruit local workers

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The mining industry is discussing a strategy to recruit local workers

The Canadian Institute of Mines, Metallurgy and Petroleum is looking for answers about attracting new resource workers

As the mining industry struggles with a shortage of skilled workers, indigenous people are often described as an untapped resource that can help fill the gap. But how do companies attract local workers to the sector?

That was the topic of discussion during an Aug. 25 webinar hosted by the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) Diversity Advisory Committee.

Erin Mach, senior head of Indigenous Relations at Teck, said “human, down-to-earth” interactions with people are much more effective than handing someone a brochure and expecting them to read a job description.

But it shouldn’t be just HR or community relations representatives who attend job fairs and other recruiting forums, she advised. Instead, companies should send people from front-line positions — a heavy equipment operator or someone who works at the mill — so potential recruits can ask questions and get real answers from the people filling those roles.

“Bringing it close to home and making it as personal as possible is the most powerful way to reach people,” Mach said.

Freda Campbell agrees.

A member of the Tahltan Nation and director of community relations for British Columbia-based Skeena Resources, Campbell said the First Nation is working to attract community members who have graduated or are enrolled in a mining-related post-secondary program. back into the community to talk to youth about mining and what post-secondary education is all about.

Running since 2020, the initiative has been “very successful” and a number of Tahltan Nation members are now working in the industry, Campbell said.

“We can do a much better job of making sure local people understand the kinds of opportunities that are out there,” she said.

“It’s not hard to bring someone into schools and talk about what they’re doing.”

Mah also suggested that mining company leaders look to examples of best practices from other industries.

While working in the oil and gas industry, Mah witnessed the implementation of the Close to Qualify program, which helps candidates improve their skills or qualifications to prepare for the next step in their career.

Under the program, if a worker has great skills for the job but lacks some qualifications, they are given space and time to build on their qualifications until they are ready.

“It’s a really, really good way to create the next step down the road,” Mach said.

“It’s something that’s in an industry-controlled environment that we can invest in.”

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When it comes to the recruiting and hiring process, it’s important for the hiring manager or HR staff to have a cultural understanding of how an Indigenous person might interview differently, she added.

Often in the culture, people may not make direct eye contact, and applicants may be too modest to talk about their skills, Mach said. By making the interview more conversational and less of a question and answer format, it creates more opportunities for the local candidate to be successful.

“Cultural awareness training is a big part of that, making sure people understand how to conduct interviews in a culturally appropriate way and knowing that maybe Indigenous people have different cues and might just work a little bit differently than other people in interviews, and you have to be able to explain that and not be biased against it,” Mach said.

Campbell said there are other ways the industry can support local communities.

While working with Barrick, she said, the company hired a social development coordinator whose job it was to address the social impact effects of mine work.

Trained as a registered therapist, the coordinator develops personal relationships with frontline workers to understand where they need support. The therapist could admit people into treatment if needed and could continue therapy with them in the community.

“So working with the community, understanding where they’re at and supporting their own initiatives that they’re facing is extremely beneficial and a great opportunity for both organizations,” Campbell said.

Companies can even show support through their physical assets, Mach said.

If the company establishes a local office, locate it in a First Nation, creating economic development opportunities and tax breaks for the community, she suggested.

Incorporate natural materials into the building’s design, signage that incorporates the community’s language, or commissioned artwork from local artists, Mach added.

In Skeena, pictures of native wildlife with their Tahltan names are placed around the property and a land declaration is prepared to be placed at the entrance to the site so it’s front and center for visitors, Campbell said.

Together, all of these initiatives create welcoming, culturally relevant workplaces that make them more attractive to local workers.

Campbell said it benefits companies to have a skilled workforce that wants to stay close to home.

Local residents can be trained in critical positions so they are nearby when needed, which also saves companies from having to fly workers in and out from across the country.

“It’s of incredible value to a mining company if you have a workforce that’s invested in staying close to home and their communities,” she said.

“You’re protecting your project and benefiting the local community – it’s a win-win.”

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