U.S National Research Council issues final mining workforce report
On March 21, the National Research Council (NRC) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released its final report, Emerging Workforce Trends in the Energy and Mining Industries: A Call to Action. This report is the culmination of two years of collaboration with the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, Inc. (SME), and our trade association partners, who supplied much of the employment data and industry projections that were captured in this final NRC report. A four-page summary (PDF) that includes seven specific NRC recommendations is also available.
The report identifies several factors that pose a threat to maintain a sufficient energy and mining workforce. One third of the U.S. workforce is poised to retire in great numbers by the end of this decade. For example, projections from the U.S. Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) show that 46 percent of its coal-sector workforce will be eligible to retire within five years. Another major factor is that a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills is needed for many energy and mining jobs. However, the current pipeline of STEM-capable students and workers is inadequate to meet workforce needs. Finally, a serious problem recognized in this report is a faculty shortage at U.S. mining schools. Unless this is corrected, the nation risks losing its capacity to provide new science and engineering professionals for the workforce. SME has published a technical briefing paper, “Federal Support for US Mining Schools,” (PDF) that addresses this issue and makes five specific recommendations that are needed immediately to correct this problem.