Turn on any news station or pick up any newspaper, and employment features in nearly every story. Jobs have been an especially pressing issue since the 2009 recession, and even where the economy has rebounded, governments, companies and employees alike continue to focus on the expansion of job opportunities and career paths throughout the country.
While political opinions abound as to the best way government can stimulate job growth, on the ground, facts and statistics demonstrate that job creation is, as Nick Hanauer notes, not a product of rhetoric. Instead, job creation is the result of planning, management and strategizing.
Work will always exist as long as human beings need food, water, shelter and energy to survive. Where resources are allocated and how tasks are planned and carried out, however, have a direct impact on how many work-hours — and thus how many people — are needed to reach business goals.
Aggregates, mining and landfill operations all have one thing in common when it comes to jobs: They tend to employ a large number of people locally, and they tend to impact the employment of others further afield.
Here, we take a closer look at the ways in which these industries are leveraging the skills and abilities of local workers.
Local Work, Local Jobs
The digital revolution has changed our relationship to work in a number of fields. Automation has led thinkers like David Autor to ask whether automation will replace human labor completely, while those like Andrew McAfee attempt to predict the ways in which “jobs of the future” will differ from the work we’re familiar with today.
Unlike many of the jobs created in the past 20 years, jobs in aggregates, mining and waste management are site-specific: A mine or stockpile cannot be uploaded to the Internet and accessed anywhere in the world the way a document or spreadsheet can. These operations exist where the resources and space exist.
These jobs have changed in recent years as a result of technology: drones, site mapping and GPS tools are just a few of the possibilities open to site managers and staff that simply did not exist in the previous century. The local, physical, site-specific nature of these jobs, however, remains the same.
Why do local jobs matter? Consider the following points:
Local Jobs Build Communities
Local jobs are also a great way to maintain communities across generations, since they allow workers to stay near families and offer needed support. The wide range of entry-level jobs available in mines and quarries, as noted by InfoMine, also helps build and maintain communities by giving workers viable options beyond leaving for college or the big city.
Because mining, aggregates and landfill operations create multiple off-site jobs for every job filled on site, these employers also help to stimulate local economies and businesses. Many of the tasks these operations need to outsource are tasks that are also site-specific, such as transportation and equipment maintenance. Further, employees need locally available things like food, notes Stacy Mitchell at Independent Business.
Onsite Work Improves Communication
As global communication has become easier, work teams in many industries have spread out. They’re working from home, on the road or any place other than the same worksite.
Remote work has certain advantages, particularly in fields where being off-site or away from the office is often required. It produces a wide range of challenges, however, and the jury is still out as to the best way to coordinate communication and innovation when your team isn’t in the same space.
Locally based operations like mines, quarries and landfills often don’t have this problem. When workers have to be on-site to get the job done, navigating the latest technology or synchronizing schedules to ensure you catch someone before they clock out in a different time zone becomes a non-issue — making teams easier to lead and improving cooperation, as Jonathan Farrington notes.
Entrepreneurship and Innovation are Collaborative, Hands-On Processes
Mines, quarries and landfills provide nearly endless opportunities for innovation and creative solutions to problems, particularly when it comes to efficient management of resources and supply chains. To achieve the best gains in this area, however, a cohesive, well-managed team needs to have the daily contact that makes it possible for them to rely on one another.
“Working effectively as part of a team is incredibly important for output quality, morale and retention,” notes Edmond Lau, an engineer at Quora. Effective communication is only part of the task; workers also need to be able to rely on one another and must trust that when they see a better way to do a task, their idea will be taken seriously. In such an environment, innovation can easily put a worksite ahead of its competitors — and such environments are easier to generate when employees live and work locally.
Job Multipliers: How One Direct Job Creates More Indirect Jobs
Mining, aggregates and landfill operations all directly employ workers. Labor is an essential part of these operations’ success, and while technology has made work more efficient in some ways, in others it has increased the demand for higher-level thinking, strategizing and problem-solving in site staff.
Putting a Number to That Multiplier
Research indicates that every position filled at a worksite doesn’t just employ the person who fills it: it also creates demand for additional tasks, which require additional workers to address. In short, as Therese Dunphy notes at Aggregates Manager, these jobs create jobs.
A study released in March 2017 of the aggregates industry found that each aggregates industry job supports four more jobs, often in the local economy. The study examined the national, state and county-level impacts of aggregates operations. At every level, aggregates operations created and maintained not only the working positions needed to run the operation itself, but jobs in shipping, quality control and other related industries, according to George Ford, the author of the study.
Mining has similar effects on local economies. Analysts at Sunrise Coal, LLC, studying data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, estimate that coal mining creates an additional 3.88 jobs in the broader economy for every individual employed at the mine itself. Meanwhile, Reshoring Initiative founder Harry Moser estimates that mining hasn’t finished producing jobs yet: Faster permitting, he estimates, would allow mines to add another 125,000 direct jobs and reduce trade deficits.
The ‘Spillover’ Effect That Indirectly Creates Jobs
Every job mining produces also creates jobs indirectly related to the operation of the mine itself. According to a report by the Canada-based Mining Facts, mining’s stimulation of the demand for related goods and services, including equipment, maintenance and other services results in additional jobs within local communities. Their study indicated that mining’s “spillover” effect is higher than in many under industries, particularly in locations where mines outsource tasks like transportation or equipment repair.
When it comes to creating new jobs through innovation, however, landfill operations remain at the forefront. The “zero waste” movement, in which landfill deposits are recycled, has the potential to produce 1.1 million jobs directly related to these recycling operations, according to a report prepared for the Natural Resources Defense Council by James Goldstein.
“Recycling activity can create over 10 times more jobs than disposal in landfills,” notes Nancey Green Leigh, a Georgia Institute of Technology professor who focuses on city and regional planning. She advocates treating landfills not as an end point for waste, but as a resource for raw materials. The idea has some similarities to the ways in which mines and quarries produce raw materials, suggesting that the “jobs multiplier” from landfills might be similar if recycling were made a priority.
The labor-intensive nature of recycling makes it a natural job creator, since many work-hours are required to recycle effectively, according to Rick LeBlanc at The Balance. When recycling is considered more broadly to include tasks like reuse and resale, its jobs impact may be even higher, creating as many as 2.3 million jobs, according to Harmony Enterprises.
Landfills in many areas already serve as points for the production of one important raw material: methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is also the primary constituent of natural gas. A white paper from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) estimates that landfills are one of the largest sources of human-made methane on the planet, creating 17.7 percent of the country’s methane emissions. The EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) works to help landfills create and sell electricity and natural gas from these emissions, stimulating jobs and helping to protect local and global ecosystems.
Images by: michaeljung/©123RF Stock Photo, taina/©123RF Stock Photo, goodluz/©123RF Stock Photo