Hardly a week goes by without a company, recruiter, or government boasting about the number of jobs available in the mining industry.
But while the vacancies seem endless many still struggle to find work in the industry.
The disconnect between this reality and what people see in the media is alarming, and the source of rising frustration in the community.
Most often the frustration comes from cleanskins, or workers without any experience seeking entry level jobs in the industry.
While experts are divided about the number of jobs out there for cleanskins, all agree that unskilled job seekers need to invest a lot of time and money if they’re serious about finding work in mining.
Getting a foot in the door
Mastermyne managing director Tony Caruso, who heads a company that specialises in training cleanskins and securing them mining jobs, told Australian Mining the jobs were out there for those that wanted them as "the pool of demand is definitely out there, especially for upcoming underground resources projects.
"And we’ve got a lot of cleanskins coming in to fill these positions."
He said job vacancies were on the rise and Mastermyne are set to open their second Queensland training facility this year to cope with industry demand for cleanskins.
For their work on training unskilled workers Mastermyne won Employer of Choice at Australian Mining’s Prospect Awards last year. But while they guarantee a mining job after workers complete their training the service doesn’t come cheap, with the course costing at least $13,750.
Caruso told Australian Mining the price tag was indicative of the typical cost it took to bring cleanskins up to speed with the risks they face on site..
He said while the jobs were available, the idea cleanskins could walk into work without spending time and money was a myth.
"Unfortunately there’s a lot of opportunistic businesses that prey on that sentiment," he said.
"There’s money to be made and they’ll tell people they’re a shoe-in for a job, and unfortunately we can’t stop that."
Kinetic Group CEO Derek Hunter told Australian Mining while the number of jobs available was genuine, cleanskins needed to realise they weren’t the only ones looking for the work.
He said at last year’s QLD mining expos 50,000 people expressed interest in entry level jobs over three months.
"A lot of people are excited about getting a job in mining, but whether they are suitable for it is a major question," he stated.
Hunter said study from the Kinetic Group showed almost 20 per cent of workers that quit mining jobs had worked in the industry for less than 12 months, adding that many unskilled applicants weren’t serious about working in mining after facing the reality of the dedication and cost of training, and the tough working conditions they encountered on the job.
Doing your homework
Caruso told Australian Mining cleanskins needed to do a lot of research before they parted with their money.
"Talk to the companies that are hiring, ask them what the entry points are for the position and line up the training to fit that role," he said.
Caruso said some applicants might already be comfortable with the skills taught at training centres if they had previous experience in other heavy industries.
"It makes sense, as there’s a high degree of transferability in mining, and you’re fundamentally using the same skills."
Nevertheless he said mining was a specialised industry and cleanskins needed to familiarise themselves with it.
"People still need to be trained to familiarise themselves with the terminology, legislation, and tools of the industry."
He said this training was not only for the benefit of the person receiving it but also for those they would eventually work beside.
"It means experienced workers won’t have to babysit people that haven’t been in that environment before."
"It takes pressure off the guys on site and they can be confident the new worker is trained and understands how to look out for themselves and work safely."
Building the skills
Caruso told Australian Mining while other companies had their own training initiatives the skills shortage looked certain to worsen and more effort needed to be dedicated to training cleanskins.
He said while miners had always been aware of it many companies had been "sitting on their heels waiting for someone else to solve the problem".
"In the past businesses have looked to the Queensland Resources Council or Government to solve the problem, but they’re slowly coming to the realisation it’s up to all of us to do our bit."
Caruso told Australian Mining while it was starting to change some companies chose to avoid the cost of training cleanskins and instead poached workers by offering higher salaries.
"Some companies play the pay game and recruit other people’s trainees by paying more money," he said.
For cleanskins, Caruso and Hunter’s comments cast light on one of the harsh realities of mining work.
While the jobs are out there the competition is fierce, the training expensive, and the promise of jobs uncertain.