Graduates feeling brunt of mining slowdown

Staff turnover at mining companies has fallen nearly 5 per cent over the last six months to 14.8 per cent per annum, according to figures from Mackie Employer Solutions.

The decline is due to layoffs, abandoned projects, and the focus on cost cuts.

This has made it increasingly difficult for those looking for work in the industry, especially graduates, reports The West Australian.

James Robinson was a geology student at England’s Portsmouth University. Having heard of the job opportunities and generous salaries, the 24-year-old came to Perth for a job in the mining industry.

Robinson has sent 300 to 400 applications and even travels into the West Perth offices of mining companies to distribute his CV in person.

He has managed to find work as a warehouse supervisor but he has not yet cracked the mining industry.

“It is frustrating. I’ve been looking really, really hard. And I’ll keep looking until I find something,” he said.

“It seems like the competition has simply increased for jobs in mining over the past six months…maybe I am six months too late.”

Curtin University School of Mines director Steve Hall has also witnessed a change in the last six months.

“There is no doubt the jobs market is tightening,” Hall said.

“A few years ago there were three jobs for every graduate. Now it’s definitely a bit harder.”

But Hall also said almost every school of mines’ graduate was able to find work.

He said mining industry workers coming to Western Australia from other countries faced a challenge because of visa issues and employers preferring to hire local talent.

The jobs market is already tightening but more pressure may come halfway through this decade.

In 2008, then education minister Mark McGowan encouraged students and universities to study geology to match the then-increasing mining boom.

Students in WA have been slow to heed the plea but it has grown. Figures from the school of mines show 866 new students started in 2010. This nearly doubled to 1583 in 2012.

Hall said the natural attrition rate for the school is around 25 per cent. This means around 1200 geologists, metallurgists, mining engineers and exploration geophysics will be hunting for jobs at the end of 2016.

Last year, there were only 427 graduates.

"I spoke with our first year students a couple of weeks ago and I did explain to them that perhaps by the time they're moving towards graduation they may not be getting the remuneration packages that were there in the past," he said.

Earlier this year Australian Mining reported on the unrelenting skills shortages in the Australian mining industry. The Minerals Council of Australia had predicted the need for an additional 86,000 mining professionals and skilled mine workers by 2020.

Xtrata and Rio Tinto were looking at different methods of attracting and employing people to fill the gaping hole.

It is a different scenario now and Robinson feels the pressure but said he is determined to gain employment here, having left his country.

“I just need someone to give me a chance,” he said.

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