I have read quite a few articles indicating that the mining industry is seeing a shortage of experienced people, on both the technical and management side of the business. Apparently the baby boomer generation is now nearing their retirement or early-retirement stage and there is a gap in the number of experienced people following behind.
Many of these retirees enter the “independent consultant” stage of their careers.
I also hear from recruiters that there is a shortage of engineers willing to take remote or international assignments. This is particularly difficult when a senior level candidate has a growing family.
Can the independent engineers help out?
In a previous article (14. Miners – Why Have Your Own Independent Consultant?) I discussed why mining companies (or even consulting firms) should make use of the independent engineers as advisers or Board members.
I understand from colleagues in the mining industry that many of the people nearing retirement are willing to take on consulting assignments or board or directors roles or other management roles. They are often willing to work part time and independently. Or they may work as “associates” with engineering firms.
So there likely is a significant network of experienced people out there. It’s just a matter of being able to tap into that network when someone needs specific expertise.
So how can one do this?
LinkedIn currently seems to be the only global network for technical people. It is a great way to connect with engineers and geologists industry wide.
LinkedIn members work everywhere, at mine operations, consulting firms, financial houses, as independents, or even retired. Almost every technical person I know is registered on LinkedIn.
The question is how to find these people when you are looking for a specific independent expertise for a short term or over the longer term.
The shortage is a consequence of the industry wide retrenchment from about 1980 to 2005. Engineers my age or thereabouts are retiring, and there are few replacements int he 35 to 55 year age group, but lots of good people under 35 who will no doubt do a great job when they gain a bit more experience. For me, this bodes well, as I plan to work a few more years, but perhaps more as a consultant and less as an operator. A few months ago I supervised a group of consultants doing a due diligence, and all of them were in their late ’60’s an dearly ’70’s, so it appears I’m not the only person who still wants a work related challenge.
Hiring an independent is a tricky business. In my view, old style networking is a good tool to find one. Linkedin can be another tool, to cast a wider net, but you don’t really know a lot other than what someone puts on their personal bio. I have links to dozens of people that I’ve worked with in the past, and that’s the good thing about Linkedin. It’s enabled me to find people I haven’t seen for many years…some of whom I had a lot of regard.
I recall reading somewhere about how companies can work share with retirees. Say for have an older engineer nearing retirement making $130,000 per year. So you bring in a younger engineer, pay them $80,000 per year and the retiree gets paid $50,000 for part time mentoring and guidance. So the net cost is still $130k but now you are training a younger person while still getting the experience of the experienced person at no extra cost. Its a win-win-win for all three parties.