How is the Industry Preventing a Shortage of Human Talent?Mon, 10/22/2018 - 11:49
As the industry evolves, so does the technology. Mines are becoming more automated and complex, with the promise of autonomous equipment and man-free mines of the future. But rather than eliminating human talent, this will only create the need for more skilled, qualified workers that will be able to work remotely from cities. Mexico Mining Review asked Mexico’s mining leaders how they are adapting to this trend and what actions they are taking to strengthen the country’s human capital pipeline so it can remain a global mining powerhouse.
Miguel Andres Rozo
Mining is an important economic motor for the country and the governments at the federal and municipal levels should help promote the sector. We believe the authorities should not only help Mexican companies in the industry but their international counterparts too. The help does not have to be monetary and the authorities could intervene by connecting companies with Mexican talent, which is an important issue in the sector. The younger generations often do not get many opportunities to connect with the industry and the government could play a critical role in closing talent gaps. Companies could then train and develop people with talent. This would also help boost the economy in Mexico.
The mining industry is making a great effort to promote human talent development and attraction in the country. In Mexico’s mining history, there have been times when it did not have a positive public perception but this is starting to change. The industry has started to communicate the reality of mining which should result in new generations by raising interest in the sector. Also, public relations are important to attract and retain talent within the newer generations. At Chemours, we are making our own effort by having a diverse and inclusive team. In addition, to better understand the industry, we have included team members with an important background in the sector to make sure we are speaking the same language as our clients. This helps feed the innovation in the company and allows the adoption of new and more sophisticated solutions.
Human capital is a big priority for us. We do not rely on recruiters and have developed a unique system to select team members that includes a three-month trial. Finding and retaining talented people is always a challenge. Miners used to work six days a week and rest one. Since their families were close to the mines, they were able to dedicate this day to spending time with their loved ones and to see them at least once a week. But now miners work 20 days in a row and rest 20. Due to the family structures in remote areas, often mothers now have to take care of the family alone for 20 days at a time. Now Carrizal Mining is contracting families rather than employees for 20 days at a time, with better productivity as a result.
There is an increasing need for data scientists as digital disruption sets in throughout the sector. In the past, data scientists would not necessarily have been attracted to the mining industry. With its remote locations and relatively unattractive geographies, mining has always found talent attraction a challenge. This issue is one of the main reasons behind remote mining applications that can bypass the need for on-site operations. This should positively impact talent retention and the future of work within the industry, particularly the push to foster diversity and inclusion. BHP has been at the forefront of this with its aspirational plans for a 50-50 ratio target of male versus female employees by 2025.
We used to consider our growth objectives to be the biggest challenge that we faced but now we consider the lack of human talent to be a greater obstacle. We have a large portfolio of projects but we consider the most precious asset in our company to be our talent. The downcycle in the mining industry caused many people to stop working in the industry and now there are many gaps to fill in medium to high-level positions. We are responding to the situation by supporting educational initiatives around the country. We work closely with universities in Mexico City, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Sonora and Chihuahua, among others. We also provide training facilities where students can go and improve their knowledge and skills.
Mines that have meaningfully invested in technology are reaping results beyond expectations. The availability of accurate information allows taking the right decision at the correct time, minimizing costs and investment. This does not necessarily mean fewer employees. On the contrary, it can improve their quality of living and pay better wages as employees are more productive. Imagine giving workers more challenging jobs that can also add more value to the industry.
In the next 10 years, robotics will play a key role in operational intelligence as mines will be managed remotely, reducing the need for a human presence on-site. Technicians need to become specialized in Industry 4.0 as these services need to reach the deepest corners of a mine. Education is simply fundamental. I think Mexico is working to keep up with these new skills. Lasec is proof of this effort. As a 100 percent Mexican company, we provide our 200 employees with constant training to remain competitive because we understand the importance of this dynamic. We have aggressive internal development programs to offer our people the best education.