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Mining for talent: How the mining and minerals sector can engage and appeal to future generations

Mining for talent: How the mining and minerals sector can engage and appeal to future generations
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By Annabelle Duke, Account Director, London

Mining is an essential enabler of the world’s energy transition, with the push toward net zero driving increased demand for minerals and metals.

A World Bank study, Minerals for Climate Action: The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition, found that the production of minerals, such as graphite, lithium and cobalt, could increase by nearly 500% by 2050, to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies. Miners need to urgently source more materials, and they will need to do it in a sustainable way.

However, with this integral role to play, the sector is facing a critical shortage of skills and struggling to attract and retain future generations of talent. Why is this?

The mining industry is grappling with a reputation challenge

Often perceived as dirty and unsustainable, the mining sector is marred by negative headlines and online criticism on the global stage. Younger generations, who seek purpose-driven work, and have a strong affinity for the environment, tend not to want to be associated with this industry.

This is an urgent, pivotal moment for the industry to articulate its contribution to sustainable development in order to engage and connect with youth, encouraging them to upskill and become the next wave of responsible miners.

Companies must be authentic in purpose and corporate beliefs, not just on the surface. Gen Z (and other Generations) can spot lack of authenticity a mile off. The challenge lies in communicating and engaging with an audience that will often be highly sceptical of the industry as a whole.

Read: Kim Polley explores the challenges and opportunities for the mining sector in 2023

Gen Z are key to the future of mining, but how to attract and retain them?

Generation Z (Gen Z) are the workforce of the future. Born between 1997 and 2012, they represent 25% of the world’s population, $7 trillion or more in purchasing influence and will comprise 27% of the workforce by 2025. The size and influence of this cohort cannot be ignored and must be incorporated into future-proofing business strategies.

Here are 5 areas that mining corporations can work on now to appeal to this crucial young demographic:

1. Accept your legacy and hold open and honest conversations

The mining industry must acknowledge and accept its legacy to shift the needle and overcome existing biased opinion. Engaging with sustainability influencers, who are highly attuned to greenwashing, will require an acknowledgement of historic practices. It means taking accountability for past (and future) mistakes, and clearly and transparently outlining what doing better looks like for the industry and for their own organisations.

Expect challenging conversations and prepare accordingly. Be in listening mode, step away from the need to justify, and demonstrate that you are looking forward towards a contribution and commitment approach in all you do.

To cut through negative conversation and engage new audiences outside of the mining sphere, bolder, braver companies will partner with unexpected influencers from other sectors who will challenge them, push them to think outside the box, and offer a different perspective. For example, climate change and clean energy influencers, climate scientists, or green investors.

2. Understand and consider how to engage your audience

To effectively engage your target audience, you need to know who you are talking to and what motivates them.

The labour market is competitive, and miners will need to position themselves as attractive employers to get ahead. Organisational purpose, social good, employee wellbeing, and DEI are top priorities to meet future talent expectations.

To reach these audiences and convey your message, ask yourself, where and how are your audiences consuming their news? What platforms are they on? What channels do they subscribe to? Who are the influencers in their social circles?

Equipped with audience insight and a map of your sphere of influence, you will be able to develop a targeted engagement strategy and provide the opportunity to generate more creative, multi-channel and impactful communications.

Ensure you’re actively present and contributing to the right conversations with easy-to-digest, engaging content. There is no point churning out complicated, corporate jargon if it will land on deaf ears.

3. Articulate the critical role mining and minerals play in enabling the energy transition

The green energy transition is heavily dependent on the raw materials sourced by mining. The World Bank estimates that over 3 billion tons of minerals and metals will be needed to deploy wind, solar and geothermal power, as well as energy storage, required for keeping global warming below 2°C.

There is opportunity to educate future talent on how minerals and metals are in constant demand to accommodate the world’s green ambitions.

Outline why purpose-driven Gen Zs should get involved. What value will they add? What societal problem will they help solve if they were to join the sector?

By bridging the knowledge gap with younger generations, and articulating your sustainable vision, this allows you to change the dynamics of the conversation around mining and secure your future workforce.

4. Demonstrate your commitment to ESG

Young talent will be seeking employers who are committed to modern ESG practices and can demonstrate their social impact. Mining may not seem an obvious career choice, so organisations need to outline compelling environmental and social reasons to join the industry, as well as career growth opportunities.

Increasingly, mining and minerals companies are having to meet global standards to improve their ESG capabilities — from environmental stewardship, biodiversity commitments, worker protection and health – they are required to demonstrate care and responsibility for the communities in which they operate.

However, Gen Zs judge a company on what they do, not what they say. Back up any claims with action and ensure that commitments are time-bound and measurable. Share and amplify inspiring stories that showcase your impact, with real-life case studies, allowing your target audience to see and understand the socio-economic contributions of mining as local socio-economic growth engines for local people and markets.

5. Celebrate digital transformation

Digital transformation of the mining sector is already well underway. The Axora 2021 Innovation Forecast: Metals and Mining survey of 150 senior decision makers worldwide revealed that 99% of mining company decision-makers said technology and innovation are “critical” to their organisation’s survival.

We’re seeing emerging technologies like cloud, AI, robotics and big data enabling organisations to optimise production and exploration processes, improve supply chain and logistics and increase sustainability.

Mining and minerals organisations need to be celebrating their innovative technologies and alerting young talent to the opportunities available in the sector. They should demonstrate how broad the modern mining skillset is and the opportunity to advance digital skills, contribute to transforming businesses and the industry, while growing their own careers.

Gen Zs are digital natives, never knowing a world without the internet, smartphones or social networks – and will help shape and drive your tech savvy workforce of the future.

Creating a mining workforce for the future

By championing your ESG commitments, advocating technological advancement and promoting diversity, equality and morality – you will create a workplace where future generations with innovative, modern skillsets will aspire to work.

The time to engage is now. There is a golden window of opportunity for mining companies to get it right. To succeed, you will need to be equipped with a deep understanding of what makes your audience tick and how to engage them, with the right message, on the right platforms. Meet them where they are, and they may just do the same for you.

Read: How to balance the urgent need for rare minerals with responsible sourcing

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