Current labour market trends of low unemployment, an ageing workforce and corresponding skill shortages are placing pressures on the mining industry’s ability to respond to increasing production demands.
With a predominately employee-driven market, industry is continually called upon to come up with new strategies for attraction and retention.
The Hays Salary Survey, released earlier this year, showed the skills shortage crisis had continued to worsen across all sectors of the industry.
Skilled personnel, in particular geologists, were in increasing demand due to the massive focus on exploration. Despite the market’s strength, however, the survey, which is responded to by over 1700 of the companies clients, showed salaries had begun to plateau.
There were, however, some exceptions.
Metalliferous geology saw some notable increases.
The maximum salary ranges increased for an exploration Manager in WA from $160,000 to $195,000, in Queensland from $155,000 to $180,000, in NSW from $145,000 to $155,000 in Victoria from $120,000 to $145,000 and in South Australia from $155,000 to $180,000.
The Mining Industry Skills Centre’s manager for strategic development Jenny Neumann told Australian Mining that increasing salaries was a tried and tested technique that has now been proven redundant.
“Salaries are already high and they are probably not sustainable in the very long term if something was to happen with commodity prices,” she said. “High salaries also encourage poaching which isn’t assisting mine sites at all.”
Instead, Neumann said mine sites need to focus more on career development opportunities, work-life balance and a flexible working environment in order to attract and retain necessary skilled labour.
“The mining industry must recognise that they have the lowest number of part time employment opportunities of any industry and could be expanding this area.
“The industry needs to think about how they can provide work opportunities for the under employed population. They also need to extend employment opportunities to women. As it stands, most women exit the workforce at approximately age 24 and re-enter it at age 50,” she said.
According to Neumann, the industry also needs to address its lack of entry points.
Often those looking to break into the mining industry are unaware of the avenues available to them.
There are over 70 different types of jobs across a minesite. However, the scope of jobs on offer is ill-represented.
Following the development of the Mining Industry Skills Strategy, completed in November 2007, the Skills Centre released their first research paper titled Attract, Develop and retain: Initiatives to Sustain a Competitive Workforce.
The report suggested employers respond to their employees needs by defining clear, career paths in conjunction with offering non-financial benefits like flexible working conditions.
Due to skilled, experienced employees being scarce in supply and high in demand, training and career development initiatives, when used appropriately, can have a positive impact on attracting and retaining valuable employees.
Train to retain Career development initiatives give employees the opportunity to undertake further training and personal development which in turn improves their knowledge, skills and abilities.
Such initiatives give employees the opportunity to move into other job roles hence leading to greater productivity.
According to Neumann, effective strategies need to be implemented immediately to help ease the crisis before it reaches boiling point.
“I would classify what we have at the moment as a skills shortage rather than a labour shortage. Over time, the aging work force will serve to broaden the crisis to encompass not only a skills shortage but also a labour shortage.”
Neumann said mining companies need to start looking at their employees as an asset.
If companies were to look to their employees as a potential financial investment, they could develop a path that would in turn maximise returns.
“Recent figures released suggest a mine worker contributes $369,000 GDP per year, whereas in other industries it is $70,000,” she said.
Vale Australia’s Human Resources general manager Rebecca Wells told Australian Mining that not just mines but the industry as a whole needs to continue to work with industry organisations such the Queensland Resources Council (QRC), government and education sectors to ensure a sufficient number of skilled people are delivered to the industry to help ensure its future.
“QRC’s Sustainable Resource Communities program is an excellent example of an initiative to address skills shortages by improving conditions and lifestyles as well as infrastructure for mining centres,” Wells said.
“Resource businesses need to accept that there are options in this market for employees, therefore they have to add that something extra to the position to encourage and retain people.”
One method Vale Australia has implemented in a bid to attract and retain is to reward its employees for recommending suitable applicants to the company.
“It is widely accepted that there is a skills shortage, not just in mining but in many sectors across Australia. While this is difficult to reconcile with the recent financial reporting in the papers, the fact remains, the resources sectors continue to perform strongly and we are challenged daily to look for new ways to attract and retain employees,” Wells said.
General Manager, Human Resources
07 3136 0941
Strategic Development Manager
Mining Industry Skills Centre
0422 390 630