Engineering a Brighter Tomorrow: Building the Energy Transition Talent Pipeline
When it comes to the many challenges of the global energy transition competing for urgent attention, the shortage of skilled engineers is one we must prioritize. There’s huge motivation among the next generation of engineers to meet carbon reduction targets – but how do we harness this to cultivate the right skills, at the right place, and at the right time?
As a sector mining doesn’t currently have the profile it should as a key enabler in the net zero journey. More metals and minerals are fundamental to the transition from fossil fuels to electricity, effectively setting the pace of the energy transition, yet the mining industry is being overlooked by new engineering talent. In fact, according to the McKinsey & Company report ‘Has mining lost its luster? Why talent is moving elsewhere and how to bring them back,‘ 71 per cent of mining leaders say the talent shortage is holding them back from delivering on production targets and strategic objectives.
Powering the sustainable transition
Mining for metals and minerals will need to increase significantly over the coming years if we’re to extract the copper, iron, and other metals essential for electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels, and more electrification overall. Deeper mines will be needed along with a skilled workforce to ensure responsible extraction.
Meeting the growing demand for extraction, while also lowering emissions and environmental impact, is an urgent priority. Hoisting is the most sustainable way to extract materials from mines below ground to the surface. Powered by electricity and able to run on renewable energy sources, hoists are a low-carbon, reliable and safe future-forward solution to transporting ore from great depths.
For our customers, the mine hoist is a business-critical application and is one of the most technologically advanced solutions in their operations. ABB has delivered over 1,000 hoisting solutions globally with customers benefiting from low lifecycle cost, the highest levels of safety, and system availability, short project execution time, and a single source of supply for complete systems.
We design mine hoists for safe, sustainable, productive and reliable operations, and our niche sector of the industry demands some of the best engineering minds to deliver this complex infrastructure. As a business we need talented people to work closely in partnership with our customers, from design to execution, as well as servicing the technology throughout the lifetime of the hoist.
Attracting and nurturing diverse talent
In a strategic move to bridge the burgeoning skills gap, we launched a Hoisting Young Engineer Exchange Program in November 2023 to attract the next generation of graduates to a career in mine hoisting.
Aimed at those looking to work on the latest technology and build a more sustainable industry, the two-year program enables participants to spend time in their local engineering teams, followed by overseas rotations in ABB’s key hoisting markets, namely Canada, Australia, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, or China. Within each rotation, graduates learn about the latest industry technology and have the chance to apply it directly on customer sites.
Our first ever participant on the program is 25-year-old Canadian, Julien Pacheco Labelle.
Based in Montreal, Julien graduated as a Power Engineer at Montreal university and subsequently applied to join ABB’s Discovery trainee program before entering the exchange. We’ve designed the program to ensure young engineers like Julien have the opportunity to truly make a difference and work on some of the most important mining sites in the world.
Having begun my own career journey at ABB over 20 years ago through a trainee program, I’ve experienced the potential benefits firsthand, and this program is ideal for engineers wanting to work with ground-breaking technology, have a sense of purpose and a clear pathway for career advancement.
As a business the program is not only aimed at building our talent pipeline to fuel the company’s growth, but also fostering tighter collaboration among various international teams.
Challenging perceptions of an evolving industry
As well as finding innovative and rewarding ways to nurture talent, more needs to be done to challenge outdated perceptions of mining careers so that we can a attract a more diverse pipeline of engineers. Not everyone knows how technically complex, challenging, and critical mining is.
The nature of work in the mining industry is changing rapidly, with growing demand for data and digital skills. The high-tech aspects of many mining roles, which can be very interesting and complex, are not often understood and we have an important role to play in changing this.
Diversity of thought is a powerhouse for innovation, and we have to be proactive in attracting diverse talent, using our networks, challenging cultures and thinking differently about how we cultivate tomorrow’s leaders.
The success of our sector, and therefore a successful energy transition overall, will demand energy, ambition and collaboration as much as technical expertise. This is what we need from our future leaders and the time to start cultivating them is now, when it comes to the net zero journey, there really isn’t time to lose.
Applications for the Hoisting Young Engineer Exchange program are available HERE.
About the Author
Bjorn Jonsson has 20 years’ global experience in industrial automation, electrification and digitalization in many industrial segments including mining, metals and battery manufacturing.
With a deep focus on the mining industry, Bjorn is committed to helping create the right conditions for the mining industry to allow the sector to grow, ensuring there’s enough energy to build new mines, and considering how carbon emissions are valued.
Bjorn has an MSc in Electrical engineering / Communications, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and an EMBA, Stokholm University.
ABB is a technology leader in electrification and automation, enabling a more sustainable and resource-efficient future. The company’s solutions connect engineering know-how and software to optimize how things are manufactured, moved, powered and operated. Building on more than 140 years of excellence, ABB’s 105,000 employees are committed to driving innovations that accelerate industrial transformation.