Lack of new workers may threaten Utah's mining industry, residents tell state commission
PRICE Fewer young people are choosing mining as a career, which could diminish the future of the energy industry in Utah, speakers told the Utah Mine and Safety Commission today at its third meeting.
The meeting was a chance for Price residents to speak about the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster and offer their comments about mining in Utah. The mine's collapse in August trapped six men, and their bodies were never recovered. Three rescuers died days after the collapse while trying to reach them.
Despite the tragedy, many of the residents at the commission meeting spoke about the need to find ways to support the development of education and training programs to get more people interested in mining and energy-production careers. Without a new generation of workers for the energy industry, the state risks the demise of one of its major economic drivers, they said.
"We have to go out and attract new populations to come in and be a part of this solution," said Robert Topping, program director of the Western Energy Training Center at the College of Eastern Utah.
Over the next 10 years, Utah will lose 70 percent of southeastern Utah's highly qualified energy workers to retirement. With fewer young people choosing the oil, gas, and mining industries for professions, Topping said, certain students in elementary and high schools should be targeted.
"We want to engage the disenfranchised student, because that's generally who does well in this industry," he said.
Most students "who are turned off" by school lose interest "because they are constantly challenged to know something rather than to do something," he said. The energy industry requires hands-on ability, so getting those students connected to a "doing" industry would allow them to flourish, he added.
Topping said the need for new workers is critical and must be addressed immediately, or there will be a crisis in the next decade. About 1,400 Utah workers will leave coal mining in the next year, and there are already 600 jobs currently unfilled in the state.Over the next 10 years, Topping said, as many as 12,000 of Utah's 14,000 mining jobs will be lost due to retirement or workers choosing to leave the industry.
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