Production workforce facing automation disruption in Canada

Production-based occupations in Canada’s mining workforce are the most likely to be disrupted by automation technology over the next decade, but all will be affected, according to the country’s Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR).
Production workforce facing automation disruption in Canada Production workforce facing automation disruption in Canada Production workforce facing automation disruption in Canada Production workforce facing automation disruption in Canada Production workforce facing automation disruption in Canada

Demand will shift toward more technical, knowledge-based occupations

The top five vulnerable occupations before 2030 will be in production, with underground production and development miners' jobs the most at risk of change, the MiHR found in a new two-year study.

"Demand will shift toward more technical, knowledge-based occupations requiring a greater use of computers and software programmes," wrote the organisation. "Disruption from new technologies will be disproportionately high for low-skilled mining workers who perform manual labour or work in repetitive jobs."

While the changes will have a disproportionately negative effect on low-skilled workers, those entering the industry with higher skills and education will also face the challenge of adapting to new conditions. For instance, the increased use of automated vehicles and equipment will mean fewer truck drivers and more technical operators working in remote operations.

MiHR expects increased demand for technical miners with specialisations in fibre optics, wireless technologies, and data analytics, and for engineers, geologists, programmers, electricians and systems engineers.

Mechanics and maintenance workers with digital competencies will also be highly sought after, but only those with the skills to read and interpret real-time data, and to maintain and repair systems remotely.

Mining companies are interested in technology because it increases productivity and efficiency, said 57% of respondents, with improvements in worker health and safety the second-most important reason for 32% of those asked.

There will be an increased need for "technologically savvy, data-driven individuals who can interpret and analyse data," said MiHR. As well as for "technical miners comfortable using software and computer systems, who can easily download and upload information," noted the MiHR stakeholders.

As the industry's digital transformation accelerates, the organisation recommends that discourse over the workforce changes due to automation shift from "crisis/vulnerability to opportunity/adaptability".