Attracting diverse and skilled workers a priority for mining’s future

Tackling the gender imbalance and attracting young talent have been mining industry challenges put under the spotlight on day two of AIMEX in Sydney.

In preparation for a digitised and autonomous future that inevitably lies ahead, industry leaders discussed how to appeal to the younger generation in order to attract the skills necessary for the next leap in technology.

For Weld Australia chief executive officer Geoff Crittenden, it begins with educating children as early as school on what the sector offers.

“We need a well trained, vibrant sector in order to bring people into mining trades,” Crittenden said.

“We need to reach out to people that influence kids, such as career advisors, parents and teachers, saying there is opportunities in mining and engineering, and encourage them to go down this pathway.”

While the common perception of mining jobs may be associated with a welding gun being used in 50 degree heat in remote Western Australia, this is something that is not entirely accurate, according to Austmine chief executive officer Christine Gibbs Stewart.

“Most mining jobs are actually in the city and within the METS sector, not necessarily out in remote regions,” she said.

“I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, but if that is what a young person has in their mind, of course they won’t be appealed to that.”

Equal gender representation within the mining industry was also at the forefront of topics discussed by a panel that featured Whitehaven Coal chief financial officer Kevin Ball.

He exerted optimism to onlookers about his faith that while the gender imbalance won’t be a quick fix, it is trending the right way and will gradually even out over time.

“A lot will change, I think it’s a decade thing, not a year thing; in 2025-2030 the gender balance will be better, leadership structures more balanced and there will be multiple races and religions,” Ball said.

“If (the industry) provides flexible workplaces and support for parenting, then over time the gender issue will be more balanced.”

This will not only benefit the industry as a whole, but also companies given the business outcomes that result from a more diverse workplace, according to chief executive officer of HVTC Sharon Smith.

“There’s a lot of research that says if you have culturally diverse leadership and policy then you get better decision making and organisational performance,” Smith said.

The outlook coincides with the employment of Indigenous Australians in the industry, which is already under way among a number of large companies.

Rosemary Howard, chairperson of the AIMEX panel and of the mining leaders group, said the sector had great potential to assist with creating jobs for Indigenous Australians.

“As jobs shift to cities and there are less high skill jobs in rural area, this sector is in a unique position to help Indigenous communities,” Howard said.

Howard, pointing towards the work Whitehaven Coal already does with Indigenous communities including its reconciliation action plan, emphasised that mining has and should continue to make strides with Indigenous employment.

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