One of the most acute problems Russia’s mineral resources sector is facing is a lack of skilled workers. Young engineers simply do not want to move to the Far North to work, wherein most of the country’s deposits are located. And even if they decide to take their chances on the Extreme North, few stay, whilst the majority cannot adapt and leave in a couple of months.
Of course, everyone dreams of getting an office job in a megacity right after graduation. But Maxim Goncharuk, the Head of the Department of New Projects at AV Group, is not everyone. He was born in Sakhalin. His grandfather from Vorkuta was a miner specializing in underground blasting; he used to talk about his work a lot, which eventually influenced Maxim’s choice of future profession.
The young boy entered St. Petersburg Mining University and underwent internships at the Kirovsky and North Onezhsky bauxite mines. However, after completing his degree, he realized he wanted to test himself and try something more extreme.
The fresh graduate got a job at Polymetal and left for Khabarovsk Krai to work on a rotational basis, just a week after receiving a degree certificate. It was quite a rigid schedule: three months at work and one month off. Maxim started there as a blaster, and a year afterward, he was already a deputy to the site manager. Soon he was noticed by AV Group, the largest drilling operator and producer of blasting agents across the CIS and Russia, and invited to Amur Oblast for working at the Albynsky mine.
“I had about 70 subordinates at that time. Once I realized I had gained enough field experience, I applied for the manager position at the Department of New Projects. And so I moved to Moscow to work at the parent’s company office. My function was to implement the world’s best drilling-and-blasting practices in our organization. After four years of working with innovations, I was offered to head the department. My current role lies in organizing and supervising the newly established subsidiaries in the regions of little potential that did not raise the company’s attention before,” says Maxim Goncharuk.
“Of course, large-scale projects are the most beneficial. For example, our branch in Kemerovo blasts millions of cubes a year. Yet, we have plenty of small quarries and mines in Central Russia. We are actually going through a rapid expansion phase now, with the last three years bringing in new subsidiaries in the center and the south of the country and the Volga Federal District. The North Caucasus is next on the list,” adds Maxim Goncharuk.
As mining-engineering professions are gaining popularity, youngsters have become more conscious about choosing universities to study at. They apply to technical and engineering universities, already knowing what kind of work awaits them and where their future workplace will be located. Indeed, high salaries, stability, and exciting career prospects are good motivators. New projects in the north of Russia are being continuously launched, which provides university graduates with opportunities to grow professionally.
Faced with understaffing, mineral companies have intensified cooperation with higher educational institutions. According to Maxim Goncharuk, in 2020, AV Group’s executives paid a visit to Mining University to discuss possibilities for mutually beneficial cooperation. The company intends to offer students internship opportunities and employ them later on.
“My colleagues acquainted themselves with the university’s lab facilities and acknowledged the high quality of teaching. Our HR director said she had never seen such a top-notch university in Russia before. So it is hardly surprising then that we have probably about ten graduates of Mining University among the company’s managerial staff only. My coworkers were particularly impressed by Orica’s education & research laboratory for simulating explosions and learning blasting techniques,” says Maxim.
Attracting industry leaders as partners to organize systematic practical lessons and traineeships helps raise the level of young professionals drastically. Our company is also looking for ways to get into the education system – by introducing our own materials and teaching how to handle equipment and work with technologies,” he concludes.