Mining recruitment trends in 2010-11

The Australian resources and mining sector has bounced back from the global economic downturn to make a comprehensive recovery, according to the 2010 Hays Salary Guide – Resources & Mining.

Strengthening commodity prices across the board and resurgent demand from some of Australia’s key export markets through the first two quarters of the 2009-10 financial year, resulted in production ramp-ups, increased exploration spending and higher levels of investor activity.

However, this increase in commodity prices, investment and development has not directly translated into massive salary growth, according to Hays director Simon Winfield.

“We certainly have not seen any massive hikes in salaries over the 2009-10 year,” he told Australian Mining.

“If they are not on par, the salaries are probably only marginally higher than they were this time last year.”

There were bonuses awarded over the last year, however they were at lower percentages than previously experienced.

Winfield said this was unusual given the strength of the recovery, but understandable, given the level of uncertainty in the industry thanks to the Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT).

“There was a massive increase in job-flow activity in October and November last year on the back of the recovery,” he said.

“Of course the Christmas period arrived and put a temporary brake on things, but things were starting to get a bit lively again by January and February.

“However, the RSPT came along in March and April and the sector became a bit tentative."

Fly-in-fly-out rosters which lengthened throughout 2009 have begun to shorten as part of an attraction and retention program.

Positions in demand

Now the RSPT has been replaced by the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT), Winfield believes the industry will be more comfortable and activity will increase once again.

“We have already started to see significant job-flow increases in geology and mining engineering, which are always the first indicators that things are picking up,” he said.

“The availability of good candidates in those markets is really starting to tighten up.”

According to the report, candidates are again entering the market across the country, encouraged by the return of confidence, investment and project activity.

Western Australia is seeking exploration candidates from geologists to field assistants, mobile plant operators and maintenance trades in mine production and maintenance staff in mineral processing.

New projects, such as Karara in the state’s mid-west, are pushing ahead at a rapid pace, while others, such as RGP5, Pluto and CP Mining, have created high demand in industrial construction.

Queensland is also on track for a strong recovery, with employment rising and the coal export industry recording record volumes, boosted in no small part by demand from China.

Darwin is also experiencing a continuing shortage of high-level maintenance candidates, and also needs geologists at all levels.

A number of “world-class” projects are being developed in the Northern Territory, thanks in part to the help of the Territory Government.

South Australia was a state to watch before the global financial crisis and is once again showing signs of life.

Several new mining projects and infrastructure developments have fostered demand for civil and structural engineers, mine geologists and mining infrastructure specialists.

The New South Wales market has a demand for mechanical and electrical engineers, open cut and underground geotechnical engineers and geologists.

The expansion of Newcastle Port has allowed sites across that state to increase production.

Victoria is looking to fill strategic roles, such as principle engineers and team leaders.

“I think there will be a steady increase in salaries over the next 12 months; the plain and simple fact is that there are not enough people,” Winfield said.

“There is still a reluctance to bring in significant numbers of people from overseas, so everybody starts fishing in the same pond.

“The demand for skilled trade areas, such as diesel fitters, mechanics and electricians, are generally the next to increase after the initial movement in engineering and geology.”

Employers are also looking for project managers and engineers across all disciplines, mechanical supervisors and senior and lead structural, mechanical and electrical design engineers.

Changes to recruitment practices

In recognition of the market’s improvements, employers are actively promoting the career path and development they offer to help attract candidates.

Furthermore as candidate shortages emerge, their recruitment process is quickening in order to secure top talent.

However companies remain cautious and place heavy emphasis on cultural fit.

They are also very selective and only candidates with similar commodity, mining or equipment experience will be successful.

Providing some short-term relief to imminent skills shortages is the aging population of mining professionals who are working to recoup superannuation lost during the GFC, particularly at the statutory and senior levels.

But succession planning still needs to remain a focus, with graduate to intermediate employees requiring support and development to fill senior roles long-term.

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