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Vale explains the success of new employee hiring program

Shortage of skilled mine workers for the Garson project prompted Vale to change its approach to hiring

A Vale mine manager said the shortage of miners in Sudbury prompted one of Canada's largest mining companies to change its approach to hiring new workers.

Colin Pegues, the general manager of the Copper Cliff Mining Complex, was the keynote speaker May 3 at the annual mining week business lunch in Copper Cliff.

The event was sponsored by Greater Sudbury Development Corporation and Modern Mining & Technology Sudbury.

Pegues outlined how a rejuvenation at the Garson Mine about five years ago resulted in an urgent need for hundreds of new workers.

"So all of a sudden, we needed to head into the market to find 300 skilled employees," he said.

Pegues said it was not considered fair for Vale to flood the market with new jobs and take away from local contracting and mining supply and service providers in the city. He said Vale realized it would have to rethink the hiring process for attracting new workers.


"So that's what prompted the creation of our MIT program; so the miner-in-training program. So what it did was change our hiring criteria. So we went from a pre-MIT program where we would expect a college diploma in a related field at the minimum; we would have expected two years experience in mining or mining related fields. And then the onboarding time would have been much shorter," Pegues said. 

"So as it wasn't possible to hire these employees, we went to the market looking for people with potentially high school equivalent education or high school. We reduced the expectation of where they worked, from having mining experience to having no industrial experience," said Pegues.

That included reducing the expectation that used to apply for physical strength and abilities that miners were known for.  

"Some of the physical tests that we would apply to new employees coming in were monitored on a case by case basis, because let's face it, our prior hiring practices would have required someone to manage a jackleg or stoper for multiple hours a week, which isn't our business anymore," Pegues told the audience.

So there was a big change in who we could hire based on reducing some of those criteria that opened up the market to a huge amount of people," he said. 

"It also forced us to make huge changes to how we finish the project, because typically we would have expected to onboard someone and have them be efficient and in the workplace within two weeks. So now we went from two weeks to three to four months before someone was ready to walk into the door to Vale and then walk onto a mine site.

He said the new hiring process has been long and expensive, especially as Vale provides Common Core training for many of the new hires. Common Core is a series of training modules required before any employee can begin any work in an underground setting. This includes theory, hands-on, and occupational health and safety training. 

Pegues said the new hiring project allowed Vale to bring in a whole new workforce that previously did not exist.

He said this also resulted in a new demographics of workers that Pegues said was "a lot different" from previous worker groups.

“So we went from having, you know, virtually no women at less than four per cent in the entire mine workforce to having close to 20 per cent total," he said.

He added that six of those women are now within management or leader positions on the mining side of the operation. 

Another plus he said is a safety milestone.

"So despite all those new employees, we just clocked over five million working hours without a lost time injury. And our trip rates are below what they were pre pandemic levels."