Navigating the new landscape of mining jobs

Caterpillar dealer, Hastings Deering offers a graduate program with on-the-job training opportunities.

Graduate development programs provide a pathway to jobs in the mining sector. What more needs to be done to attract the next generation to choose a career in mining? Tara Hamid writes.

As digitisation in mining gains momentum, the nature of jobs that the sector is creating and therefore the skillsets that are required in the sector are changing.

Deloitte research in 2017 indicated that globally 69 per cent of mining companies were looking at introducing remote operations and monitoring centres, 29 per cent robotics and 27 per cent unmanned drones. 1

Since then, the uptake of digitisation by mining companies has accelerated, with the latest Deloitte report on the top 10 trends transforming mining identifying digitisation and intelligent mining as a key trend that has escalated over the past two to three years.

Reserve Bank of Australia head of economic analysis Alexandra Heath, in her address to the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) in June last year, pointed to the increasing reliance of the resources sector on people with IT skills of various kind.

She noted that reports by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Reserve Bank of Australia show a significant growth in the number of non-routine cognitive jobs.

In her explanation, jobs, irrespective of the sector, can be classified by whether they are routine or not and whether they mainly use manual skills or cognitive skills.

In Australia, there has been less growth over the past 30 years in the number of routine jobs, which by their nature are relatively straightforward to automate, according to Heath.

“The most significant growth has been in non-routine jobs, particularly non-routine cognitive jobs. Non-routine jobs have features, such as interacting with people, or diagnosing and solving irregular problems, that are harder to automate,” Heath comments in the speech.

The growing requirement for a more technology-focussed skill force in the mining sector has resulted in some mining and mining equipment, technology and services (METs) companies offering graduate programs to train the next generation of workforce.

Glencore is one such company that offers its graduate program mainly to the regional communities where its operations are based.  The company operates 24 mines across regional Australia, from Mount Isa in north-west Queensland, McArthur River mine in the Northern Territory, Queensland’s Bowen Basin to the NSW Hunter Valley, and the Goldfields region of Western Australia.

In April, Glencore extended its 2021 graduate development program to provide further career opportunities across its coal, copper and zinc operations. Over 100 graduates have participated in Glencore’s program this year, bringing the total number of current enrolled graduates to 220.

“A key aim of our graduate, apprentice and trainee programs is to foster and support the next generation of talent that will make a positive and lasting contribution to our business. For many that will be in the regional communities they have grown up in,” a Glencore spokesperson tells Australian Mining.

Glencore offers a range of job pathways programs, including school leavers programs, vacation programs, traineeships, apprenticeships, graduate programs and employment programs tailored specifically for local Indigenous groups.

“Our graduate program is important not only for the career development opportunities it provides across regional Australia, but also because it helps nurture our future leaders. So many of our graduates or apprentices have gone on to leadership positions and are now helping shape the future of our business,” the Glencore spokesperson says.

Caterpillar dealer, Hastings Deering is another example of a METS company that is nurturing the future mining workforce through its in-house graduate program.

Hastings Deering’s talent development specialist, Rowen Fraser, says Hastings Deering has employed graduates in a variety of roles for a number of years, with several having moved into senior roles within the company.

“In the past five years our program has evolved into a leading graduate rotation program. We currently have 10 graduates participating in our program in the areas of human resources (HR), finance, IT, engineering and marketing and sales,” she explains.

The Hastings Deering program consists of two- to three-year structured rotations, dependent on the area of discipline, with dedicated support from talent specialist and rotation sponsors.

“The rotations are designed to provide our graduates with a depth and breadth of experience both in their field of expertise and the Hasting Deering business, along with providing them the foundation to be leaders of the future,” says Fraser.

Graduates are recruited by Hastings Deering via a comprehensive recruitment process, according to Fraser.

“We have hired graduates from across the region with one current graduate from Mackay. Our engineering and HR graduates also undertake a regional rotation to gain exposure to the broader Hasting Deering business.”

In addition to the various rotations, the graduates also participate in a variety of development initiatives including networking events, professional accreditation and general professional and leadership training.

“We also regularly employ undergraduate students on internships to provide them practical exposure and compliment their formal studies. A number of our interns have joined Hastings Deering on a permanent basis on completion of their studies,” says Fraser.

While graduate development programs offered by mining and METS companies provide opportunities to fill up the increasingly technical and cognitive roles in mining, the sector’s analysts say more needs to be done to improve the image of the mining sector as a brand.

The report ‘Mining: what story are we telling?’ by Deloitte2 looks at the practical steps that the sector’s leaders can take to change the public perception of mining. These include, among other steps, changing the current image of the mining workforce.

“When we think about the average worker in mining, this is the first image that comes to mind: masculine, physical, remote and low tech,” says Nicki Ivory, Deloitte’s Western Australia mining leader.

“We would like that (instead) to be: diverse, tech-enabled, not necessarily remote but maybe (working from) remote operation centres. That’s the sort of image where we think a shift needs to happen.”

Through this shift in the dialogues and perception, the report suggests, the mining sector could attract a more diverse workforce, including a greater population of females, in addition to other benefits.

“Let’s start to change the conversation. Let’s start to tell positive stories about our industry and in that way we can shift the image of mining,” Ivory concludes.

Sources:

  • The digital revolution – Mining starts to reinvent the future, February 2017.
  • Mining: what story are we telling? Let’s change the conversation, Diggers & Dealers 2019

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.