The Challenges and Opportunities Facing Employment in Australia’s Mining Industry

Miner working on site in Western Australia Black and White Photo

Australia’s lucrative and ever-expanding mining industry directly employs nearly 200,000 people, about 2 percent of the nation’s workforce, and an additional 600,000 people work in support industries. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal, diamonds, lead, and iron ore, and thanks to its innovative approach to safe mining, it’s also highly regarded for its technologies and machinery.

Total Plant Hire is one such company that can provide the latest and most advanced equipment to any site across Australia on short notice. We started leasing mining equipment hire in 2008 to give mines access to the very best vehicles, tools and equipment available, regardless of their location, and we can cater to your requirements regardless of how demanding.

However, while Australia’s mining industry seems to be showing no signs of slowing down significantly, it faces challenges regarding employment. Renewed optimism in the sector has resulted in a growing number of job vacancies, but filling them is proving challenging, which could be due to a skills shortage, lower earning expectations, and a lack of drive-in, drive-out workers.

The mining industry is addressing said problem by widening its candidate pool and considering new approaches to employment contracts, which means we might start seeing an increasing number of people taking an interest in the sector. However, in certain situations, people may be missing out on opportunities unfairly.

 

Can We Expect Another Mining Skills Shortage?

According to the recruitment company Hays, many people that previously held blue collar jobs in the mining industry have transitioned to new sectors closer to home following a period when redundancies were common, and uncertainty was looming over the workforce. It seems that such blue collar workers are reluctant to return to the industry despite the renewed optimism, which Hays says is because many of them enjoy improved lifestyles and higher wages.

Unfortunately, this means that many mines are struggling to fill vacancies with skilled workers, especially given that sites are usually far away from cities and urban areas. According to Hays, the problem is particularly evident in places like North Queensland, where many people were previously employed as drive-in, drive-out workers. Some people may also be afraid that as automation continues to advance in leaps and bounds, more and more careers in the mining industry will become irrelevant.

Mining companies are now being forced to consider alternative ways to find suitable candidates when skilled workers with direct industry experience aren’t available, and it seems that one approach is to take industry experience out of the picture and instead focus on transferable skills that could be an asset.

Woman miner in full gear smiling at camera while on duty

How the Mining Industry is Addressing Its Employment Issues

Many employers are now considering taking on workers that have no previous experience in the mining industry to address the lack of skilled employees, and Hays expects this to be particularly prevalent in South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia. However, this doesn’t mean that just anybody can land a job in the lucrative mining industry.

Employers want people that have professional experience in similar industries in the hopes that they can bring new ideas to the table that will help them bolster their operations. Ideally, the mining sector wants employees that have worked in sectors facing comparable obstacles.

 

In an interview with Australian Mining, Chris Kent, the regional director at Hays Resources & Mining WA, said: “They want new ideas so they are particularly interested in candidates without mining experience that bring other skills, so it is not necessarily (candidates) without professional experience. They might have experience in another sector, whether it be oil and gas or manufacturing, or another sector that has some similar challenges.”

Roy Hill, an iron ore mining company, is currently utilising a human resources strategy that’s based on searching for candidates with complementary attributes and values, stating on its website that it wants to nurture miners “through support, training and learning.”

According to Chris Kent, an upside to taking on inexperienced employees is the fact that it increases the number of vacancies for contract and temporary workers.

“Those people that come into the industry without experience need to be trained and mentored so it is meaning that you couldn’t have a strategy solely looking at people without experience without balancing it out by bringing in experience on a contract or casual basis to skill it up,” Kent said.

Kent believes that recruitment agencies will still have a responsibility to track down skilled employees on a casual basis to train new entrants, and Hays has reported an increase in job opportunities for geologists, boilermakers, and drill and blast specialists, especially in mineral-rich states.

Is the Mining Industry Playing Fair?

New career opportunities for people without industry experience sounds positive, as does the increased number of vacancies for casual and skilled workers. However, some companies have been accused of trying to perform a brain drain on the major cities, as was the story that revolves around a job advertisement in Brisbane.

It has been reported that a recruitment agency is searching for people to work in the Bowen Basin for a company that hasn’t revealed its name, but the candidates must live within 100km of Brisbane’s airport to apply despite being hundreds of kilometres from the site. This could be one company’s way of trying to attract the brightest minds from the state’s capital, but it risks marginalising candidates who live near Bowen Basin and the surrounding areas.

What Does the Future Look Like?

Only time will tell whether or not the mining industry can employ the right tactics to fill its job vacancies with suitable candidates, but it’s safe to say that because mining contributes so much to the economy, work opportunities will always be available. Plus, there’s never been a safer time to work as a miner thanks to the latest equipment and machinery.

At Total Plant Hire, we make it our priority to keep on top of recent industry updates, but it’s our job to provide site managers with a cost-effective and reliable mining equipment hire service they can trust. If you need tailored solutions or have any questions regarding our high-quality and advanced offering, contact us today on 1300 11 4473.