Christeena Hannam, a business student at Florida A&M University, takes a spin in the pit car at the IOC located at Fishhawk.
Until recently, a career in the phosphate industry wasn’t something Rakeem Ford had ever considered. His knowledge of careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) was mostly tied to large tech associations and organizations like Black Girls in Tech and Google.
“Students of color don’t really think about this industry when it comes to careers in STEM,” he said.
But, if Mosaic has anything to say about it, that’s all about to change.
Not your father’s phosphate
Today’s phosphate industry looks a lot different than it did 140 years ago. Which is purposeful.
As one of only a handful of industries with the distinction of operating in the 19th, 20th and now 21st centuries, staying laser focused on the “next generation,” particularly people and technology, has helped the industry remain relevant since 1881 when U.S. Geological Survey employee Capt. J. Francis Lebaron first discovered phosphate pebbles while surveying the Peace River.
According to Mosaic’s Vice President, Human Resources, Lisa Poissant, a core strategy going forward will be creating long-term and diverse talent pipelines aligned to the skills and abilities the company needs to support its business now and into the future.
That approach is already beginning to pay off in a major way, introducing the phosphate industry to an entirely new group of future leaders like Rakeem, an MBA graduate from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU).
In May 2022, Rakeem along with four other Black students from FAMU’s School of Business and Industry (SBI), joined Mosaic’s phosphate team as part of a new cooperative education partnership aimed at increasing underrepresented groups in leadership. This inaugural group of co-op students will participate in joint research projects and other collaborative assignments.
According to Rakeem, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “Knowing that this type of industry exists in my own backyard is amazing,” he said. “I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can and taking advantage of every opportunity given.”
More diversity leads to more opportunity
Numerous studies have shown that diverse and inclusive teams are more productive, creative, and innovative. In acknowledgement of that fact, Mosaic announced global diversity and inclusion (D&I) targets to drive improved representation and inclusion in its workforce as well as in the communities where the company operates.
But driving diversity in its talent pipeline isn’t a goal that is exclusive to Mosaic’s phosphate operation. In Canada, 11 Indigenous students are currently participating in the company’s Mining the Future program, which was piloted in 2018 to address the underrepresentation of Canada’s Indigenous population in the potash business.
“Five years ago, we found that Indigenous students weren’t seriously thinking about Mosaic when they considered summer work opportunities,” said Tyler Hopson, Government & Stakeholder Relations Manager. “We wanted to change that by raising awareness about what we do, so we got really intentional about how we went about doing it.”
Approximately 40 students have participated since the program began. It also was expanded in recent years to include more Indigenous students in trade and professional roles.
Kelsie Rock was an Indigenous summer student from May-August 2018. Having an opportunity to be fully immersed in the organization and perform jobs that were useful and needed by the company made all the difference in her overall outlook.
“Participating in the program one hundred percent opened my eyes to the mining community in Saskatchewan,” said Kelsie who recently accepted a permanent position as Indigenous Engagement Coordinator in the Public Affairs department. “What was great to me was that I was given an opportunity to try and fail and try again. I felt important and valued as a team member.”
University recruitment is fertile ground
Along with helping Mosaic recruit new talent, both programs also support one of the three pillars of Mosaic’s D&I efforts, which is driving diversity in our talent pipeline. By 2030, the company is targeting 30 percent growth in underrepresented groups in the workplace.
“These programs add value to the company and deliver returns on investment,” said Lisa. “We’re excited to have all of these students on board with us. We’ve seen the impact this experience has had on them. They are doing great things and we’re looking forward to continuing to help them grow their careers and keep our industry going.”
If the industry is going to survive for another century, bringing in new thought leaders with diverse ideas is important.
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” said Lisa. “The students get practical experience in the industry, and we get to bring in some talent that will lead us into the future.”