Aging workforce causes concern

Posted on March 27, 2013 by Minerals Make Life

A recently released study from the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Engineering warns “the United States is facing the loss of a large number of experienced energy and mining workers in industry, academia and the government. At the same time, the current educational system is not producing enough qualified workers to fill future jobs, which increasingly require science and math skills.”

Much of the mining workforce—from engineers to educators to regulators—is baby boomers, rapidly nearing retirement age.

The NRC’s Committee on Emerging Workforce Trends in the U.S. Energy and Mining Industries said, “Not only are there too few younger workers in the pipeline to replace them, but there is little time to capture the knowledge of experienced employees before they leave.”

This massive retirement wave is a concern for many industries, but the mining sector also faces challenges due to the reduced emphasis on science, technology and math in U.S. curriculum, leaving students unprepared to enter the workforce.

Because virtually all of today’s advanced technologies—including cell phones, medical devices, hybrid cars and military aircrafts, rely on minerals—many mining companies are reaching out to students of all ages to spur interest by participating in career track days and sponsoring online classes offering college credit.

In a national radio interview last week following publication of the report, NMA's Senior Vice President for Regulatory Affairs Bruce Watzman applauded NRC for “shining a light on a subject the industry began discussing a decade ago, namely that our system for supplying the nation's technical workforce is in critical care.”

NMA collaborated with the NRC on the findings and helped focus early attention to the workforce gap in congressional oversight hearings held in 2004.

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