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Evidence of meeting #38 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was sector.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jennifer Steeves  President, Canadian Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) Council
Sarah Watts-Rynard  Executive Director, Canadian Apprenticeship Forum
David Suess  Incoming President, Canadian Apprenticeship Forum
Ryan Montpellier  Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council
Paul Hébert  Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

4:55 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

Yes, there are a number of high performers in our sector. One that I would point to to begin with in terms of diversifying their workforce would be IOC, the Iron Ore Company of Canada--Rio Tinto. In the Labrador Trough they made it a strategic priority to diversify their workforce a number of years ago. When they started, for example, their rate of participation from women—and Ryan can correct me on the precise figures—was about 4% or 5%, and seven years later they're now at over 20%. That's a remarkable increase, and really demonstrates industry leadership and commitment to attracting young people, specifically women, to their workforce.

Teck Resources, a large Canadian company, has been quite successful as well.

The common denominator in these high performers is really a strong commitment from the highest levels of the organizations and making it a strategic priority, recognizing the strategic importance of the HR challenge, and building strong linkages with the very youngest members of our society in reaching out to grade schools, high schools, and post-secondary institutions to make sure that young people at least understand the opportunities that exist.

One of the biggest barriers for us is just the lack of awareness of our sector and the opportunities that exist. So familiarity and outreach are really some of the hallmarks of the higher performers.

4:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Ryan Montpellier

I would have echoed both companies that Paul mentioned. The other one I would add is Cameco, in northern Saskatchewan. The investments they've made in the community, particularly around apprenticeship and aboriginal engagement and inclusion, in my opinion are leading the sector. They are the largest industrial employer of aboriginal people in Canada, and they have done some remarkable work in attracting and developing apprentices in that province.

May 14th, 2012 / 4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

We receive a whole series of data. There's a variety of different places you can receive it from, whether it be Stats Can, NOC rankings and everything, and in some of the projections that we're seeing, even up to 2020, they're not projecting any shortages.

From what we hear from all the consultations that we have, and quite frankly also from what I know on the street, because my family runs a small construction company in western Canada, there are needs.

What are the top three areas where you think there are skilled trades that need to be developed and then feet put on the ground in your industry?

4:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Ryan Montpellier

I would say we're seeing skilled shortages throughout, but I would say in particular for mining engineers.

I think your question was around skilled trades in particular, but if I look at all occupations in mining, there are nine mining engineering schools in Canada. Enrollment in those schools has almost doubled in the past five years, which is fantastic news, but five years ago we were seeing very few people entering mining engineering programs, and in fact a number of them were on the brink of closing. So although the enrollment has doubled, we are just now seeing the fruits of those enrollments. I would say that's probably the occupation highest in demand. And along with them, a number of the specialist occupations in geosciences, the geologists, geophysicists, and geochemists, who not only serve the mining sector but also serve the prospecting, developing, and the mineral exploration sector, have also seen a number of shortages throughout.

I'd say the third would be skilled trades.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Which specific trades?

5 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Ryan Montpellier

I couldn't speak to one in particular, but the mining industry employs a number of them--welders, industrial millwrights, equipment mechanics.... They're competing with a number of other sectors, mainly construction, and we've heard there are a number of shortages in those areas.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

I understand that, but I'm asking you specifically which one. There's a very specific reason. In some of the data we receive they lump physicians, which I am, in with dentists and hygienists. I'm asking you to be specific so that we can be somewhat specific. If you don't know, that's okay.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Your time will be up, so just respond if you like.

5 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Ryan Montpellier

I couldn't tell you specifically what skilled trade was more in demand at this point.

5 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

Anecdotally, I would just add that what we hear from our members is industrial mechanics and millwrights are at the top of the list, and electricians. I'll leave it at those. Again, it's anecdotal. We don't have any empirical data, but that's what we're hearing.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Okay. Thank you for that.

Mr. Cleary, go ahead.

5 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses.

My question is for you, Paul. You talk about three challenges for the mining industry. You talk about inefficiencies in government review. You talk about remote regions and no infrastructure; we have that problem, for example, in Labrador. You talk about human resources and skills. Did I hear you correctly? In terms of the first one, inefficiencies in government review, did I hear you say that some of these inefficiencies were addressed in the omnibus budget? Did I hear that correctly? Or they're being addressed in government legislation right now?

5 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

Yes, you did hear me correctly. There are changes being proposed to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, for example, that are quite welcome.

5 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Like what?

5 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

The mining industry is regulated quite heavily at both the federal and provincial levels. So in the realm of environmental assessments, for example, projects have traditionally been subject to two separate yet in most cases very similar environmental assessment processes, which don't happen concurrently. So a process that could take a year, two years, or more in the past is then repeated for the same duration, thereby prolonging the amount of time it takes for a project to come on line.

Through the changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, things like equivalency are being introduced.

5 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

In your view, then, it addresses redundancy?

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

I let the discussion go because nobody's objecting, but it's a little bit off the topic of our discussion. You may want to bring it back to labour shortages.

5 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

I bring it up because Paul brought it up, so I thought I'd go down that road.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

I let it go, but it is a bit off topic, so try to bring it back into the area of study, which is obstacles, barriers to skilled trades, high-demand occupations, and lower-skilled work and how we might fill those gaps and meet them. That's the general area. We're going into environmental assessment, which has some impact in terms of perhaps creating more or fewer jobs in the general sense, but specifically it's not related to the study.

5 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Maybe you should have brought that up with the witnesses before they gave their presentations.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

I could, but I didn't. I'm bringing it up with you, who's delving into that, and you've had your opportunity. I think you should now adapt and you should do it quickly.

5 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Gotcha.

Okay, let's get back to....

Ryan, I've got a question for you. When you talked about barriers to recruitment, you listed three different things: negative perceptions, nature, and location. Can you elaborate on negative perceptions?

5 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Ryan Montpellier

Yes. We've done a number of focus groups with youth across the country, gauging their perception of the mining industry. I would suggest that their perception is still quite dated in their views. They still view the industry as being a dark, dirty, dangerous sector. I don't think they have an accurate picture of what the modern mining industry is today. So part of our role is to communicate what the modern mining industry is all about, and that's part of what MAC's role is as well, to let people know what a modern mining career is today.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

I'm going to move quickly to my last question, and it's about location. The problem we have in Labrador in various locations is the fact that they're not fly-in operations, they're permanent operations, but in a lot of communities there's a zero vacancy rate. There's no place to live. Of these three barriers to recruitment, would that be number one? You may even have the people out there with the skills and the trades, but there's nowhere for them to stay.

5:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Ryan Montpellier

Part of it is housing. Part of it is also willingness to leave a large urban centre and move to a northern city in Canada that does not have the same infrastructure, the same support systems you would see in some of the more urban centres. So it's a challenge. If we were building mines in close proximity to cities, we would probably have a much easier time recruiting people.

I don't know if it's housing in particular, because there are easy ways around that, such as building temporary housing while the housing bubble catches up, but there are a number of factors that are creating this challenge.