Setting the Standard – How National Occupational Standards are changing the HR landscape in Canada’s mining industry

January 6, 2015

13 - NOS Infographic_high resAs mining employers and contractors look toward skills and training to grow the potential pool of available talent in many key occupations, National Occupational Standards (NOS) are at the forefront of the discussion – both in Canada and internationally.

NOS provide a detailed inventory of the skills, knowledge, and competencies required to perform specific jobs safely and productively. They are tools developed by industry and widely used by employers, trainers, and job seekers and they play a key role in managing the HR impacts of the mining cycle and helping to mitigate the skills shortage.

If we look at the industry’s hiring needs over the next decade, despite the current market conditions, the mining skills shortage is forecast at 120,000 workers, with a significant portion of this being worker replacement due to retirement.

Occupational Standards provide a common, industry-defined lexicon for articulating the skills required to fill the myriad of vacant positions, and subsequently support training departments and institutions in developing effective programs to teach people how to perform these jobs and to meet the needs of industry. In addition, during a downturn, NOS enable workers to demonstrate their transferable skills as they transition to new role, and as operations ramp back up they are an excellent hiring tool, and baseline for training skills gap analysis.

Mining NOS: What’s available now?
The Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) has led the collaborative development of four NOS by committees of industry subject matter experts (job incumbents, managers, and trainers). NOS were validated by a broader group of industry representatives. Currently, NOS are available for:
Underground Miner
Surface Miner
Minerals Processing Operator
Diamond Driller

In January 2014, MiHR received funding from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) through its Sectoral Initiatives Program (SIP) to update the current suite of NOS and develop three new standards. Following industry consultation, the following occupations were identified for development: Frontline Supervisor, Hoist Operator, and Industry Trainer. These new NOS will be published in 2016.

NOS: The benefits and applications
NOS are tools to help individuals, employers, and training providers to improve workforce performance.  They create a common understanding among employers, trainers, employees, and job seekers of the skills and knowledge required to consistently work safely, efficiently and effectively in the occupation.  NOS offer a framework for formal training and workplace skills development.  They also support skill transferability and mobility.  Using NOS as a benchmark, companies can build on these common best practice guidelines to create workforce planning and development strategies to establish a highly skilled labour force.

One of the widest applications of the NOS is MiHR’s Canadian Mining Certification Program (CMCP). NOS form the foundation of the Program, which is has now certified close to 1,000 workers from across the country as Surface Miners, Underground Miners, Diamond Drillers and Minerals Processing Operators. In addition to supporting personnel certification, NOS are used in a variety of industries in Canada and around the world to:
facilitate recruitment and expedite hiring processes by informing job descriptions and providing the basis for job applicants
inform training program development and assess third party training providers
identify career paths to support employee retention
evaluate and determine the qualifications of potential employees including internationally trained workers
facilitate bridging programs, such as occupation-specific English as a Second Language (ESL) training curriculum for internationally trained workers
establish performance criteria and develop training plans
support succession planning by identifying the critical competencies of experienced workers transitioning out of the industry and identifying the training and experience required for junior workers to assume more senior positions

International interest
Canada’s NOS are garnering international attention amongst global mining employers and Canadian companies operating abroad. MiHR has received inquiries from across the globe from countries such as the United States of America, Ghana, Turkey, Indonesia, Peru, Colombia, South Korea, Chile, and Kazakhstan. Some nations are referencing the Standards for research and comparison or as a model to develop their own NOS, while others are interested in certifying their workers against the Canadian Standard. This global interest points to a growing commitment to standardized skills and training, the safety and productivity of mine sites, and the development of a highly-skilled mining workforce.

For more information, or to request NOS, visit or email

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