Ontario's mining industry risks a shortfall of over 3,500 skilled green-collar workers by 2040, unless it jump-starts education and training for the new generation of technicians needed as Canada's critical minerals-hungry electric vehicle (EV) sector gears up this decade, according to a new strategy report unveiled by the government.

The province last week launched its Critical Minerals Talent Strategy, a multi-department initiative developed by the government's Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN) to head off this employment bottleneck as mining deepens its focus on extracting the cobalt, lithium, nickel and other materials key to manufacturing EV batteries.

Ontario's mining sector will be supporting almost 23,000 jobs by the end of the next decade, a 163 per cent rise on today's headcount, according to OVIN's scenario-scoping. But the head of the group flags that without a "supportive talent strategy, about one in seven jobs [could be] going unfilled."

"The race towards Ontario’s electric future starts with harnessing the ability of the current and future generations of the workforce to access our wealth of critical minerals... to advance the automotive and mobility and [mining] sectors," said Raed Kadri, head of OVIN, which acts as the Ontario government's think-tank on the future of advanced automotive technology and smart mobility solutions.

"Together, we must ensure the development of a highly skilled workforce and keep Ontario at the forefront of the global shift to electrification.”

The Critical Minerals Talent Strategy, one of six "pillars" of a wider sectoral plan launched by Ontario in 2022, focuses on "key practices" including raising awareness of job opportunities among the next generation of sector recruits, increasing access to training and education programs, engaging women and other underrepresented groups and establishing long-term partnerships with Indigenous communities.

"Ontario has a world-class workforce ready for the mining sector of the future," Ontario Minister of Mines George Pirie told delegates at the BEV + In-depth conference in Sudbury on Thursday.

"But as this opportunity grows, we have to ensure we continue to train and attract the best talent to guarantee we can seize this opportunity to unlock our [country's] mineral wealth to support development of our EV supply chain.

"Frankly, I think [OVIN's jobs forecast] is too low and we've got to do it before 2040. So we have one hell of a challenge ahead of us. But I believe by working together using strategies such as this one, it is realizable. As I have often said, it is not just about what we mine, it's about how we mine it.”

"This strategy will have wide-ranging impacts on the province, from the #mining sector to economic development in many #Ontario communities, preparing the #workforce of tomorrow," said OVIN CEO @Raed_Kadri1.

Pirie added: "Ultimately, it is all about getting off fossil fuels and moving to clean energy and battery technology — that includes green jobs."

OVIN's Kadri, speaking to Canada's National Observer, said "a whole-of-Ontario approach" was key to the province seizing "a once-in-a-generation opportunity" to build an end-to-end EV supply chain.

"This strategy will have wide-ranging impacts on the province, from the mining sector to supporting economic development and job creation in many Ontario communities, preparing the workforce of tomorrow with new skills and training and driving prosperity for all as we make a successful transition to an all-electric future."

The largest number of vacancies in the critical minerals sector, according to OVIN, will be for "certified and technical" jobs, but the highest vacancy rates will be in the "skilled and certified" categories, "suggesting these jobs will be the most difficult to fill."

Among the most sought-after skills will be machinery operation and control, equipment monitoring, quality control testing, tool selection and troubleshooting, according to the Critical Minerals Talent Strategy. "These are often the most difficult to find and train for," said Kadri.

Automakers Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen and, most recently, Honda, have announced plans for EV-linked production in Canada, which plans to phase out gas-fuelled vehicles by 2035, while battery-makers Northvolt and Stellantis have also started plans to operate factories in the country.

Ontario's Ring of Fire — a 5,000 sq. km. area about 500 km northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont. — promises to be the source of mother lodes of critical minerals such as cobalt, lithium, nickel, copper and platinum for EV battery production.

OVIN developed the Critical Minerals Talent Strategy in partnership with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development; the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade; the Ministry of Northern Development; the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs and the Ministry of Mines.

Keep reading

Really, National Observer, mining may be good for a growth economy, for the mining industry, and for jobs, but it is quite obviously not good for the environment, water quality or quantity when water has become so precious, for already beleaguered biodiversity, for wildlife and their habitats, for people who love and hold sacred the land, and eventually everyone, including those who are purposefully turning a blinkered eye to the unintended collateral destruction to be caused by mining and so-called "clean/green" energy.

Obviously your "solution" would be degrowth. It would be more respectful of CNO readers to explain exactly the steps needed to acheive perfect preservation of the environment, and to provide an analysis of the consequences of each step.

If it wasn't for mining, you would not have been able to make these principled but impractical statements with a computer. Just saying.