Next Generation

Headlines around the world call attention to workforce shortages in mining:

★ Australia needs an estimated 85,000 workers in the mining sector by 2019.

★ Chile and Peru each need tens of thousands of workers

★ Canada needs another 100,000 workers over the next decade

★ The United States needs to hire 128,000 workers by 2019

Many skilled jobs in the mining sector remain unfilled. The situation is similarly serious for engineers and scientists needed for the minerals sector.

Perhaps the most overlooked industry workforce need is new university faculty to train the next generation of engineers and scientists for the future of the mining industry.

The reality is this – all of the senior mining engineering faculty in the U.S. could retire by the year 2020.

With few doctoral candidates in the pipeline who are interested in a teaching and research career in the nation’s universities, the replacement of these professors is in jeopardy.

Do the math. By 2020 we anticipate 39 potential senior faculty retirements. The 11 universities in the U.S. that offer doctorate degrees in mining engineering, award on average 15 degrees each year. Our hiring pool is becoming a rapidly evaporating puddle.

The Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources is addressing this pending shortage. We’ve demonstrated that – with strong financial support – students will attend graduate school in similar proportions to other engineering and science fields. And when presented with challenging research projects, they will elect to pursue a doctorate degree with a university career in mind.

Global collaborations are another important part of the solution. Doctoral programs that include some study or research abroad help build a cadre of researchers better prepared to work on global issues in mineral resources. We already work closely with sister institutions around the Pacific Rim and in Mongolia, plus key collaborations in Africa.

We need to ensure that a depth of mineral resource disciplines is sustained within top-ranked research universities. This is possible because of the ongoing industry partnerships we have created. Together we are cultivating, training and inspiring doctoral candidates prepared to lead the next generation.

For more information, contact Dr. Mary Poulton at mpoulton@email.arizona.edu.