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Emerging Workforce Trends Report Sounds Alarms


The Government and Public Affairs Committee of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) announced the availability of the final report by the National Research Council of the National Academies (NRC) on the emerging trends in the United States’ energy and mining industries.

The report is now available for purchase in paperback form, or as a free download. According to the study, the U.S. population is projected to increase to more than 400 million by the year 2050, a growth of more than 25 percent. As the population grows, so does the demand for energy and minerals needed for power generation, transportation infrastructure, national security, manufacturing, housing, clean water and sanitation. However, it is unlikely that there will be sufficient skilled labor to provide the basic raw materials needed to meet this demand.

As noted in SME’s 2014 technical briefing paper on these workforce trends, by 2029, more than half the current mining industry workforce will be retired, and the number of qualified science and engineering professionals graduating from U.S. schools will not meet the capacity required to fill these vacancies. There has been a steady decline in the number of mining and mineral engineering programs at U.S. colleges; down from 25 in 1982 to 14 in 2015. There has also been a corresponding decline in faculty available to teach the remaining programs. As the demand for qualified professionals exceeds the supply, finding and retaining skilled labor is likely to be a lasting problem for the mining and minerals industry.

“The long-term challenges that threaten the sustainability of U.S. mining schools and the looming workforce shortage are of utmost importance to the entire mining community,” stated SME Executive Director David L. Kanagy. “The Call to Action as found in the Emerging Workforce Trends conclusion is both a wake-up call and a battle plan for the future of the U.S. minerals industry.”

To download a copy of the SME technical briefing paper, please visit www.smenet.org/SME/media/Government/201402_Workforce-Trends-in-the-US-Mining-Industry.pdf.