Mining slump creating skills shortage

The ongoing mining decline is creating a skills shortage as professionals exit the industry, and an unemployment rate triple that of the rest of the nation.

A new report by the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) shows an increasing level of unemployment among highly skilled mining professionals.

“The industry is experiencing a third round of redundancies and retrenchments, leaving many mining professionals without jobs and with limited prospects of re-entering the industry,” AusIMM stated.

“This has national implications given the significance of mining to Australia’s economic health.”

The report found the unemployment rate for mining professionals sits at 16.2 per cent, a jump from last year’s 12.4 per cent rate, and a huge increase from the 1.7 per cent rate in 2012.

This current unemployment rate is triple that of the national unemployment figures.

Production roles, predominately in engineering, have faced the largest year on year rise.

Around one in four iron ore mining professionals are unemployed, demonstrating that sharp value decline faced in the market, despite the increase in actual output levels.

Worryingly, close to 30 per cent of unemployed mining industry professionals are now considered long-term unemployed, having being out of work 12 month or longer.

On the back of this many are exiting the industry, and likely not to return to the sector.

The results reflect the current hard reality of the industry, AusIMM president Rex Berthelsen said.

“Many of us have spent our careers in mining and we have experienced cycles and job losses before, but few can remember worse times and as an Institute, we are alarmed at the loss of good people who may not return and can never be replaced,” he said.

“We are also concerned that a whole level of experienced managers is being removed, leaving the industry at risk of losing its ability to innovate and pursue continuous improvements in safety and environmental performance.”

While the industry is taking a drubbing now, the future of mining in Australia is also at risk as universities record major reductions in the levels of enrolments for resource professional roles.

“The continued turbulence and resulting loss of skills creates major risks for the future of the Australian mining sector and for the Australian economy,” AusIMM CEO Michael Catchpole said.

“This sector underpinned years of economic growth and supported Australia’s economy through the global financial crisis. Government now needs to ramp up support for skills development, research, innovation and productivity improvements to maintain Australia’s position not just as a commodities exporter, but a leading exporter of skills, technology and equipment to the global mining industry.”

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