The workforce shortage is the single greatest challenge that faces the mining industry today.

SME Executive Director David L. Kanagy

US Capitol

“The workforce shortage is the single greatest challenge that faces the mining industry today,” said SME Executive Director David L. Kanagy. “By 2029, more than half the current workforce will be retired, and the number of qualified science and engineering professionals graduating from U.S. schools will not meet the capacity required to fill these vacancies.”

As reported in the briefing paper, there has been a steady decline in the number of mining and mineral engineering programs at U.S. colleges in the past two decades; down from 25 in 1982 to 14 in 2014. There has also been a corresponding decline in faculty available to teach the remaining programs. As the demand for qualified professionals outstrips the supply, finding and retaining skilled labor is likely to be a lasting problem for the mining and minerals community. In order to fill these jobs, the mining industry is often forced to turn to international schools or workers to fill the vacancies.

Federal support for U.S. mining schools is necessary to maintain qualified faculty and an educational pipeline to supply workers to meet a growing global minerals demand. SME fully supports the need for legislation, similar to the Energy and Minerals Schools Reinvestment Act of 2006, to provide the federal support needed for consistent, long-term reinvestment in our university mining engineering programs. In addition, legislation such as the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013 would mandate the Secretary of Labor and the National Science Foundation to conduct a four-year grant program for institutions of higher learning to implement integrated critical mineral education, training and workforce development programs. The U.S. has an obligation to preserve and foster the workforce necessary to maintain the nation’s economic, energy and minerals security.

To download a copy of the briefing paper, please visit SME Government Affairs & Public Policy.

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