Forum Institutional

7 insights to help the mining industry prepare its workforce for the future

Tene Konate, 42, a truck driver, talks on a radio as she sits in her truck at the gold mine site, operated by Endeavour Mining Corporation in Hounde, Burkina Faso February 10, 2020. Picture taken February 10, 2020.

48% of existing employees would require reskilling/upskilling in the next four years, according to a report by ICCM. Image: Reuters/Anne Mimault.

Nicky Black
Director, Social and Economic Development, International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM)
Jörgen Sandström
Head, Transforming Industrial Ecosystems, World Economic Forum
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Mining and Metals

This article is part of: The Jobs Reset Summit

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  • Advances in technology and economic uncertainty, exacerbated by COVID-19, are causing disruption to the jobs market.
  • The mining industry has a critical role to play in supporting mining communities to develop the skills needed to fully participate in the economy of the future.
  • Partnership and collaboration is essential to navigate these challenges and help the sector move forward.
  • Data from ICMM's report (with the World Economic Forum), Future of Jobs in Mining and Mining Regions: Sector Briefing, reveals insights to help the industry plan for the future of work.

Disruptions in the jobs market, driven by new technology and changes in economic outlook, have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent research undertaken through the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2020 Report indicates that this disruption will result in job losses in the short-term, not just in mining, but across all the sectors researched. The report estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced, but 97 million new roles may emerge, driven by these significant economic and technological shifts.

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The mining industry recognizes that while there are certainly challenges associated with the adoption of new technologies there are also benefits: improved productivity, safety performance and environmental management. It will therefore be critical to invest in the skills needed for these benefits to be realised, without disadvantaging those that currently lack the “skills of the future”.

The reskilling revolution in the mining and metals sector is one of the key challenges ICMM and the Forum have been working on together to help address this problem; collaboration within and between industries, government, civil society and those who support them is vital.

We are pleased to share key insights from a concise sector-specific analysis on the future of work for the industry. Published by ICMM, the Future of Jobs in Mining and Mining Regions: Sector Briefing draws on important research undertaken in the Forum’s Future of Jobs 2020 Report.

Seven key insights emerged:

1. The mining and metals companies surveyed were primarily focused on the adoption of three key technologies in the next four years: non-humanoid robotics; internet of things (IoT) and connected devices; big data analytics.

2. At the same time, 73% of companies identified skills gaps in the local labour market as the biggest barrier to the adoption of such new technology.

3. Companies identified that an average of 48% of existing employees would require reskilling/upskilling in the next four years to meet the evolving skills required for the tasks they would have to perform.

4. In the next four years the average employee’s skillset will change by 40% and most companies expected existing employees to pick up skills on the job and had this as their primary strategy to address the shifting skills demand.

5. Maybe as a result, internal learning and development was thought by companies to be where the most (37%) of their future retraining would occur (as opposed to being sourced from external training programmes, for example).

6. Ultimately, the average share of mining and metals workers at risk of displacement was estimated at 20% (compared with 14.2% in oil and gas, and 11% in agriculture, food and beverage, for example).

7. Despite differences in skills and work profiles, the types of emerging skills and jobs, the types of redundant jobs and the focus of current reskilling and upskilling programmes were similar across geographies.

It is clear from this survey that the mining and metals sector – like many others – is adopting technology at pace. Yet, the skills needed for this new technology are lacking from local labour markets and will require almost half of existing employees to re- or up-skill within the next four years. The scale and urgency of the task at hand is perhaps commensurate only with the potential gains to be made.

The opportunity is compelling. The transformation could lead to better, safer work, higher paying jobs and better quality of life. It enables the industry to reimagine work and create inclusive career pathways – bringing more women into the workforce, for example – and to think creatively about how the industry can support and work with mining communities in the skills revolution more broadly.

But realising the potential benefits of this brave new world won’t just happen. It will depend on collaboration between government, workers, employers, communities and supporting organizations, and active decisions taken to balance what is possible with what is just.

Public-private collaboration is essential to support the sector to navigate these challenges and help move forward, faster. ICMM has been an active contributor to the Forum’s Mining and Metals Future of Work Taskforce – a community of industry actors, academic experts and civil society organisations exploring how best to incorporate technology while promoting diversity, equality, morality and safety in industry workplaces in which future generations with the modern skills would aspire to work. The mining and metals industry is working together to define the skills it needs and ensure that it has access to talent with the necessary skills across its diverse regions of operation, supported by insights around key automation technologies and trends.

The Forum has also been an active contributor to the design of ICMM’s Skills for our Common Future Initiative, a long-term, strategic skills-building initiative to accelerate national and regional efforts to drive inclusive economic participation and diversification beyond mining. Through the Skills Initiative, ICMM aims to share effective approaches to planning for and delivering skills across roughly 650 locations in which its members mine or produce metals, and by doing so, catalyse the delivery of large-scale skills training in mining communities around the world.

It has been widely said that “the best way to predict the future is to create it”. To harness this latest industrial revolution for positive transformation, we would also add “together”.

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