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Mining industry representatives met recently in Sudbury to discuss a skills shortage.

Many industries, especially mining, say there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill the jobs coming open in the next decade.

Yesterday, two Sudbury colleges — College Boreal and Cambrian College — held a conference to address the skills gap facing local businesses.

The President and CEO of NORONT Resources said he’s very excited about the prospects for an upcoming mining project.

“It contains nickel, copper, platinum, palladium,” Paul Parisotto said.

“There’s lots of metals in the Ring of Fire.”

But to extract those resources, Parisotto said he needs a lot of workers who don’t yet exist.

“We’ll require close to a thousand people between construction, and building infrastructure and working at our mine,” he said.

NORONT has launched a training program, he said, designed to help the largely Aboriginal population near the mine site learn the specialized skills the company needs.

Parisotto said his company is living proof there’s a gap between the available workers and the type of skills required by the mining industry.

‘Doesn’t make sense’

But not everyone agrees that a skills shortage is looming.

The head of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association said he doesn’t believe the industry’s numbers, because they assume there will be a lot of retirements in the industry.

“They’re not retiring early anymore,” Dick DeStefano said.

“It just doesn’t make sense.”

A report by the Conference Board of Canada stated that Ontario is already losing $24 billion a year due to a skills gap, and DeStefano said that gap could be fixed if mining companies did more to train young employees.

“We don’t want to train anybody because it’s too costly to take apprentices,” he said.

“How in the world is a guy going to get seven years’ experience?”

Currently, the mining industry estimates it will need 2,000 new employees in the Sudbury area by 2023.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Sudbury's mining industry would need 100,000 new employees by 2023. That figure in fact represents the national demand for new mining industry workers.
    Oct 22, 2013 1:57 PM ET