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Developing soft skills to enhance workplace performance

Mining Engagement Conference for Advancement will welcome people to Sudbury this fall
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Sudbury is renowned for its expertise in hard rock mining. Now the city is looking to take a softer approach to the industry.

This fall, Sudbury will host the Mining Engagement Conference for Advancement (MECA) Symposium being held Oct. 9-11, 2019, in conjunction with the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM).

Theresa Nyabeze, a co-chair of the event, said the one-day, two-night event will veer away from the technical aspects of the industry to focus on the importance of soft skills and how to develop them.

“A lot of people, as they get into the workplace, you find out that your technical (expertise) is good to know, but really the interactions with people are what helps you show up as your best self at work, as well as being able to really have a positive experience that you can take back into the community,” said Nyabeze, a mining engineer with Vale’s Sudbury operations.

Soft skills refer to things like communication, teamwork and problem solving – traits that aren’t directly related to one position, but can be transferred between roles.

Nyabeze noted more people are talking about social skills on discussion platforms like LinkedIn, and there’s been a notable increase in awareness about mental health issues and how they can impact the workplace.

“I really do believe that idea of how you show up at work and how you experience the workplace has an impact on your mental health, and how you're able to really contribute to teams and just be your full self with all the knowledge that you can bring to the table,” Nyabeze said.

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During the MECA Symposium, a series of workshops will explore topics such as Why Distress Tolerance Matters, Connecting with People Through Engaging Conversations, and Influence without Authority.

A plenary session will focus on the topic of Exploring Engagement In Mining Through Experiential Learning.

A think-tank session will look at fostering employee and employer engagement.

There will also be site tours and guest lectures by Ian Pearce, the current chair of New Gold, and Stephen de Jong, CEO of VRIFY and chair of Integra Resources.

Nyabeze said the conference will be beneficial for anyone working in the mining industry – from miners and managers to safety professionals to teachers and consultants, all can find value in the lessons being imparted.

And even though this is a Northern-devised conference, national and international attendees are welcome to attend.

“We're expecting a really diverse group to come,” Nyabeze said.

“We are looking for people from the face, which are miners, all the way to technical, so basically a real diverse mix of people who are showing up saying the mining industry is progressive, we believe in people's transformation, and we want to learn and grow together.”

If the conference is successful, Nyabeze believes this could become a regular event.