The mining boom has brought with it opportunities to make money in all quarters. With the skills shortage facing the mining industry, finding suitable people for positions is now more important than ever. This is where recruitment agencies have traditionally stepped in to help companies out and find them the right people for the job.
At last count, there were more than 200 mining-specific recruitment agencies operating throughout Australia. IBISWorld estimates that the industry will be worth $2.6 billion annually in the next five years. With numbers like this, it's no wonder the recruitment industry is one of the busiest in Australia.
Often regarded as the first-step to locating the right person for the job, recruitment agencies have consistently been the go-to for mining companies. Utilising specialist knowledge and experience in identifying quality candidates for highly skilled positions, the rise of recruitment agencies in conjunction with the mining boom itself, saw mining companies paying an agency to find someone suitable for the job.
This level of expertise and trouble-free recruiting has been especially relevant to companies who might be time-poor and don't have the resources to scout talent for themselves. Out-sourcing the often time-consuming work of short-listing, conducting reference checks and finding the candidates suitable for highly skilled positions has seen the growth of agencies boom in recent years.
This is especially the case when there are more job openings than qualified people to fill them. Good recruitment agencies can be great value for money if they are able to bring scarce skills and talent that companies wouldn't be able to find themselves.
For a long time, it was significantly more difficult to get a mining job without an agency and companies found they weren't finding the right people without one. As a result, agencies were all powerful and popping up just about everywhere, promising to find candidates the best role and to find companies the best candidate.
However, it's not just mining companies using recruitment agencies. Employees working in the industry have been caught in the struggle of wanting a job within the mining industry but having to go through a recruitment agency to get one. As an employer for Xstrata points out:
"There's an attitude out there where people say 'don't even bother applying for mining jobs if you're not going through an agency' ".
The employer, who doesn't wish to be named, says he experienced some tough times when he recently found himself out of work. Not coming from a traditional mining background meant that he didn't have the high level of skill sets required for most jobs and was having no luck, but, persistence paid off in the end. Using social media and word of mouth, he was eventually offered a position.
"Sometimes, persistence and a good resume can really stand out when applying for jobs. Rather than going through an agency, a lot of blokes are going it alone and scoring jobs on their own. I think the perception has shifted in that regard."
This sentiment and growing angst over not being able to find work is becoming a common theme in the mining industry. Both skilled and unskilled candidates who wish to gain employment in the industry have written to us here at Australian Mining. We have had countless stories from workers who are qualified, but who are unable to find a job, whether going through an agency or otherwise. Accounts have also flooded in from workers who would like to skill-up but don't know where to begin or exactly what they will need to succeed. Many are also feeling frustrated over the lack of training offered by both agencies and companies.
This frustration only grows when agencies are demanding exorbitant fees and people feel they are overpromising and under delivering.
As one disgruntled miner wrote recently: "To date I have not received one actual contact from any of them (six recruitment companies in total, approx 15 positions applied for), nor have I even had an acknowledgement of submission of my application by way of a letter or phone call."
"It is very disappointing to find that after 15 months in the industry, working as a functional part of a mining company that I am having SO much trouble securing another position," he stated.
Anastasia Arkouzis from recruitment agency Ivy and Cube says that managing expectations with clients is key in the recruitment process.
"One thing all recruiters have to be aware of is communication. It's important to manage people's expectations, be results-orientated and ethical in the recruitment process," she told Australian Mining.
With accounts like these, recruitment agencies are starting to be the second choice for workers who are now seeing the benefit of going it alone. Furthermore, companies have caught on to the smarts of agencies and are using it to their advantage by implementing recruiting processes of their own.
The recruitment push in April by Rio Tinto is a way in which companies are starting to shift away from the traditional approach of relying on recruitment agencies. The campaign, which is still running, is offering up to 6000 jobs across all fields in the industry. Looking to employ tradespeople, engineers, planners, project professionals, geologists and operators, it is the largest recruitment drive in Australian history. So large in fact, that Rio Tinto set up their own hotline for people interested in gaining more information. This push by Rio Tinto has not gone unnoticed by agencies and employees alike.
Similarly, others companies are following suit by offering grad programs, training services, and more opportunities for minority groups such as indigenous people than ever before.
With rise of company-dedicated job boards and the money to push jobs out to the masses through advertising, branding and social media, mining companies have been pushing to have roles filled from within rather than approaching an agency to do it for them. Some see this as the start of the end for recruitment agencies while others are more optimistic about the future.
Arkouzis said the need for agencies is still important, but stated only the best will survive the squeeze from companies doing it for themselves.
"Only the best and most innovative recruitment agencies who are pushing out into the community and who continue to find ways to grow will do well in this environment. They need to deliver on their promises, find the best candidates and be trusted."
Arkouzis says Ivy and Cube is growing from strength to strength within the mining industry with an impressive list of clients. She attributes this success to the ways her company is innovating within the recruitment space. Using social media engagement, creating 'talent pools' and communicating effectively are all ways in which she claims her agency is staying ahead of the game.
"We are out there in the industry helping companies find people who are skilled, are in for the long-term and it all works out like it should."