The Global Supply and Demand of Resource-Sector Skills: 200,000 new entrants required

Not only is seven of the world’s LNG producing countries planning to double their production in the coming decade, but the mining industries of South Africa, Canada, US and South America also cite significant growth plans, conservatively demanding more than 200,000 new entrants to the industry globally.

The following is an overview of findings from a major global research study jointly undertaken by Jody Elliott and Marketforce – initially in 2012 and updated in 2013 – on the supply and demand of skills for mining, oil and gas.

Canada Findings

  • World’s 3rd largest exporter of engineering services
  • 7% decline in engineering graduates
  • By 2013, expected to be short by 300 petroleum engineers

The Canadian and global mining industry faces a serious human resource challenge in the coming decade. The Mining Industry Human Resources Council estimates in its Canadian Mining Industry Employment and Hiring Forecasts 2010 report the sector will need to hire 10,000 new workers per year for the next decade to satisfy replacement needs and fill new positions—in effect, to meet the industry’s baseline production targets. Using MiHR definitions, this suggests that roughly one out of every two current employees will have to be replaced over the next decade. 

This need comes at a time when the skilled core of the industry, including some 65% of geoscientists, will reach retirement age. Ernst & Young estimates that 40% of the industry’s workforce will retire by 2014.

In virtually all skill categories, the number of Canadian mining workers over age 50 is two to five times greater than the number below age 30.

US Findings

  • World’s largest exporter of engineering services
  • Only 800 of 76,000 graduates are in petroleum
  • 50% of engineers due to retire in next decade
  • Significant skills shortage in mining sector

The National Mining Association estimates 50,000 new employees will be needed in coal mining over the next 10 years to meet increasing demand and to replace retiring workers.

The National Mining Association also estimates that in the next 5-10 years, the mining industry (commodities other than coal) will need approximately 55,000 new miners across the US to meet demand and to replace retiring mine employees.

In addition, according to the Society for Mining Metallurgy & Exploration, at least 3,000 new mining and minerals engineering graduates are needed annually to keep up with projected growth.

South America Findings

  • Significant growth underway/planned
  • Number of graduates has remained consistent
  • Highest number of graduates from Mexico

South Africa Findings

  • Comparatively lower number of  engineers per capita
  • Significant skills shortage, coupled with huge growth
  • 18 LNG liquefaction terminals proposed or under construction in the region

There are 18 LNG liquefaction terminals proposed or under construction in the region, including Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia and Nigeria together with more than 130 mining projects in advanced stages of planning, or already underway.

There is also a much lower number of engineering graduates per capita than other countries like US, UK and Canada.

It is estimated that only a third of registered students in engineering ever graduate.  Within some specific skill sets the retention of graduates is also low.  It is estimated that only 15% of mining engineers remain in the industry for a long career, for example.

UK Findings

  • World’s 2nd largest exporter of engineering services
  • 150,000 employed in UK resources industry
  • Too few in the pipeline to replace retirements
  • Planned expansion of renewable energy sector anticipated to create 250,000 jobs

Whilst there is a reduction in energy reserves, there is also a sharp push within the UK to ‘de-carbon’ the economy, creating as many as 500,000 new jobs in renewable energy fields.  This increased attention on renewable energy supply is likely to attract workers from within the natural gas and coal sectors.

There is a recognised skill shortage in many areas; however the country is trying to address this through improved education and university training of engineering students.

China Findings

  • 100,000 energy graduates per year
  • Concerns that China will not have enough engineering and trade skills to service its own needs

China has an estimated 575,000 engineering graduates a year, with engineering representing a third of all first university degrees.

There are questions however, over whether the number of engineers in China is sufficient to service its own burgeoning infrastructure and energy sector needs.

India Findings

  • Estimated number of graduates have doubled in the last 5 years
  • 200,000 relevant to the oil and gas sector
  • Less than 50% however go on to join the sector
  • Concerns over qualification standards

A New York Times article (March 2011) states that whilst engineering colleges in India now have seats for 1.5 million students (nearly four times the 390,000 available in 2000), 75% are allegedly unemployable by India’s high-growth global industries.

India has some educational barriers; achieving low scores on tertiary enrolment and usage of internet schools, and reports conflict on just what the educational standard is.


Since the research was undertaken, Australia has seen a significant decline in the number of projects – specifically mining – slated for approval.  As a result, there has been a negative impact on the job creation numbers cited in the National Resource Sector Employment Taskforce analysis of 2010.  Despite this, the greatest demand for highly skilled labour remains for the oil and gas sector.  This is due to the global project pipeline progressing as planned together with the high number of retirees and low number of industry-specific engineering graduates.