Sudbury's mining sector will soon be getting a sense of how many skilled workers are needed in the community, thanks to an upcoming study.

The problem of attracting skilled workers to northern Ontario is one of the things the Sudbury and Manitoulin Workforce Planning Board is hoping to address with its new study.

"It's very important for us to take a look at this now because a number of the industries are very concerned that we don't have enough skilled trades and skilled professionals in the field," said Reggie Caverson, the board’s executive director.

"This particular study will be taking a look at … in terms of numbers, what kinds of professions and trades [are needed] up here, over the next two, five and 10 years."

The board will develop the study in collaboration with the Mining Industry Human Resources Council and will look at three different scenarios — whether the industry expands, shrinks or stays the same. It will focus on 66 different occupations.

"We are going right to the mining companies themselves, as well all the mining supply and services companies in our area," she said.

"We will be asking them some very specific questions about what types of services they provide, what their current human resources situation is like, what they believe they will need over the coming years."

Selling Sudbury

Caverson said similar research is being done across northern Ontario and will model a comparable study that has already been done in Thunder Bay.

"I think sometimes what we need to do is to look at what communities have lost jobs. I think there's opportunities to be able to go in and actually speak to human resources departments about the options that are up here," she said.

"We have found that there are a lot of people that don't even know there are jobs up here."

But it wasn’t the lure of working in Sudbury that brought James McGowan here from England. He came because of family.

"I think if I was doing it again — but going in blind — I would have been attracted to Toronto or Vancouver," he said.

McGowan is the type of person the city is trying to attract — young, well trained and willing to work in the mining industry. He now works as an electrical engineer at a company in Lively.

But when it comes to recruiting workers, McGowan said he thinks it's not enough to show people there are jobs. They need to be sold on living in Sudbury.

"I think they need to promote the area," he said. "I see a lot of people trying to get jobs at my company and then they're instantly turned off by the fact that it's in Sudbury."

Education is key

Caverson said there also needs to be a shift in the way the community looks at jobs in the trades.

"Bringing mining issues back into the elementary schools so that young people understand that there are these incredible opportunities here … [helps] parents understand that mining isn't what it was 30 years ago," she said.

The current skilled labour shortage can be attributed to the creation of more jobs, baby boomers retiring and fewer younger people going into the trades, Caverson noted.

The study — which is hoped to conclude by the fall and published in early 2013 — is expected to be used by a variety of people in the mining sector to both recruit and retain workers from Sudbury and beyond.