Agnico-Eagle turns poor Inuit job retention record around
New job readiness, “career path” programs get and keep people on the job
Agnico-Eagle Mining Ltd., which owns Nunavut’s only operating mine, could probably write a “how-to” book on mining in Nunavut.
Agnico-Eagle, which acquired the Meadowbank gold mine from Cumberland Resources in 2007, rolled out the mine’s first gold bar in 2010 and is now heading towards its one-million-ounce production mark later this month.
Along the way, Meadowbank has encountered all kinds of production problems, fires and other situations.
But as Denis Gourde, the company’s general manager for Nunavut said at last year’s mining symposium, “the most dramatic situation we have at Meadowbank is absenteeism and the turnover we have within our Inuit workforce.”
The good news for 2013 is that Meadowbank has improved retention numbers among Inuit and, along with that, upped production at the mine.
That’s due to new job readiness training and “career path” programs which have started up at the mine, Agnico-Eagle said at this year’s Nunavut Mining Symposium.
Some drop out of the job readiness course, but that’s okay, said Krystel Mayrand, Human Resources superintendent.
It’s better for prospective employees quit before they’re on the job, she said during an April 11 presentation at the symposium.
Agnico-Eagle assumes workers won’t have any prior experience when they come to work at the mine.
But that’s why the job readiness program, offered in Inuktitut by Peter Autut, is even more important: those who are interested in working at the mine can see what they’re getting into and decide where — or if — they want to go, Mayrand said.
A “career path” then offers them an incentive to stay and work up the ladder to increase their responsibility and pay at the mine.
Before the “career path” program for haul truck trainees, 96 per cent succeeded in the basic training — but they didn’t stay on the job.
Now only 76 per cent stay in the program, but retention has increased from 58 per cent to 92 per cent.
With diagrams, the “career path” shows workers exactly how long they will need to advance, as, for example, apprentices or heavy equipment operators.
The “career path” for truck haulers shows haul truck trainees earning $19.13 at the start of their careers with the company, but after six years, as a Class I hauler, they pull in nearly double that amount.
As for Inuit trades apprentices, there are now eight apprentices at Meadowbank and another two who ready to join the program, Mayrand said.
They’ll be ready to work as journeymen plumbers and carpenters at Agnico-Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine near Baker Lake, which could start production in the last quarter of 2017.
Agnico-Eagle hopes many of the workers from Baker Lake will decide to work there if the mine project moves ahead.
Among the surprising results of the company’s new efforts to keep and recruit Inuit: many women are now involved in non-traditional jobs. Of the mine’s workforce of more than 200, about 70 are Inuit women and, of these, one in five hold non-traditional jobs.
Agnico-Eagle also wants to develop mining expertise “right at school,” Mayrand said.
The company backed that up with recent signing of an agreement with the Government of Nunavut to collaborate on a “Mining Matters” curriculum for schools in the territory’s Kivalliq region.
“We want to be there for a long time. We don’t want to leave Nunavut,” Mayrand said about the company’s continuing training effort, which aims to see two or three generations of Nunavummiut who will have worked for the company.
“The best key to our success is our employees,” said Mayrand, whose father was also an Agnico-Eagle employee.