It's no secret that the mining industry is suffering a skills shortage. According to Canada's Mining Industry Human Resources Council, 40 per cent of mine workers are currently aged 50 or older. One in three of these workers will retire in the next decade. On top of that, fewer and fewer workers stay in the industry long-term, opting instead for jobs in other sectors. The result? A lack of low-level workers who build knowledge and move into senior positions — a process that's invaluable, especially in weaker markets and remote, unstable regions.
While there's no substitute for experience, new technology can ease some of this strain on the industry. Advances in machinery and fleet management systems take the pressure off senior workers, letting greenhorns do those jobs better than before.Take Wenco's Dynamic Dispatching application: Its algorithm directs trucks through the haul cycle, helping dispatchers perform well even without years of experience. Similarly, PitNav gives truck operators turn-by-turn directions through the mine. Seasoned drivers may scoff, but rookie operators benefit from help when navigating a constantly changing mine site.These solutions can make all the difference at a mine, but only if they're used correctly. Senior staff are especially good at showing new workers useful tricks in dispatcher software or the best ways to use onboard screens. Without these high-level workers, that knowledge doesn't get passed down directly.In these cases, documentation and training materials smooth this transfer of knowledge. Online help and courses let new workers troubleshoot problems they encounter, even if there are no senior staff available to offer advice. Good training programs remove some of the guesswork in operating machinery or running a fleet management system. They may even show workers how to use long-ignored features of their tools, improving the mine's ROI.Every mine needs its own solution to thrive during a skills shortage. Lucky operations may attract veteran staff, while others may intensify their worker training. Some mines, though, may need an alternative solution when in-depth industry knowledge is unavailable. Advances in technology provide one way these companies can fill the void left by long-time miners who retire with no young blood ready to step in.