Worker Shortage In Mining Industry

By KBJR News 1

January 4, 2012 Updated Jan 4, 2012 at 6:37 PM CDT

Duluth, MN - (Northland's NewsCenter) - The growing Northland mining industry, in conjunction with an impending flurry of baby boomer retirements, is creating a significant worker shortage.

Industry spokespeople say they're concerned about the Range finding the thousands of qualified technical workers it's expected to need over the next few years.

A shortage of qualified workers for the mining industry has the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota worried.

"Almost 40-percent of the people working in the mines can retire at this time...so we actually have a work force shortage," says President of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota, Craig Pagel.

One of the biggest problems is finding enough qualified applicants for the positions.

"You might find one out of 40 qualified. You might have a couple of job openings and over 400-people will apply and it gets weeded out pretty quickly because they do not one have the job set skills that they need, they might not have the education that they need," Pagel says.

As the mining industry evolves on the Iron Range, employers are demanding more from job candidates.

"They're really struggling to find hundreds of people that have very specialized training," says Regional Labor Analyst for DEED, Drew Digby.

Years ago a high school graduate could get a job working in the mines...but not these days.

Currently a qualified mine worker needs to have at minimum of a two year degree.

"What we're finding is, many cannot pass an 8Th grade reading comprehension, they can't pass 8Th grade math skills sets...but more importantly is attitude and the fact that many of them cannot pass the background checks and drug tests...it's a real concern," Pagel said.

"One of the things you keep hearing from the mines is they want someone who has all those great, old school technical abilities, they ability to work with things and get your hands dirty, but also handle really specialized equipment...some things with a lot of computer assistance," Digby says.

The Iron Mining Association has been working with the Northeast Minnesota higher education and state lawmakers to develop curriculum's for high school juniors and seniors so they can get college credit even before going to university and have a better understanding of what's needed to be a modern mine worker.

"These are very good paying jobs. Some of the starting salary jobs in the mine's, on an hourly type of job is 26-dollars an hour, plus benefits," Pagel said.

An attractive annual salary of around 54-thousand dollars a year.

Pagel said there are about 175 service sectors that belong to the IMA, along with the mines, that supply products and services on a daily basis, who are also concerned about the lack of a qualified workforce.

Written for the web by Danyel Piecek.
DPiecek@Northlandsnewscenter.com

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