Relative stability in commodity prices across the board is setting the foundation for a recovery in the mining job market.
According to the latest Hays report for the 2015 July-September quarter the market is beginning to appear more positive, although there is a markedly different story for each state.
In New South Wales there is the start of a shift out of mining for people with transferrable skills.
“Candidate levels have started to decrease in New South Wales as people move into other industries,” Hays stated, explaining that this was due to a rise in temporary employment and lengthy recruitment processes.
In Queensland there is a rise in short-term contracts becoming ongoing jobs after workers prove their capabilities.
Mt Isa is pushing back against FIFO, with a focus on residential roles, while the Bowen Basin sees a jump in activity as new machines hit the site and require more workers to achieve higher production targets.
“Employers in Queensland are [also] prepared to look outside their normal catchment areas and hire candidates with a fresh set of eyes and ideas to improve processes and strategies.”
South Australia is a different story, with “most mining companies still in the cost savings and consolidation phase and are hiring temporary staff to cover peak workloads,” Hays said.
In good news for local operators, however, “companies are also looking for part-time local employees to eliminate FIFO costs”.
“In Queensland candidates are now proactively going to Mt Isa when looking for their next role. They are no longer waiting for the work to come to them. Once they are in town they can start work at short notice. There’s also a steady movement of candidates looking to come back to Queensland from Western Australia.”
For Western Australia the focus has been on high level skill recruitment.
“We are seeing a trend towards contract to permanent recruitment as companies take advantage of the available labour pool to trial a candidate and ensure they are the best fit before offering them a permanent role,” Hays stated.
“However despite the perceived large pool of candidates, roles that are highly specialised and are required for safe production are still relatively skill short.”
New roles are also being created for small new mines, while the way in which people are being hired has also changed.
“Across the country we’re seeing a focus from employers on cultural fit, which now often ranks as important as professional experience and qualifications. This is even the case in the temporary market as employers want people who will fit into the existing team dynamic,” Hays explained.
This is a stark contrast to three years ago when most employers were hiring who was available, sometimes at the expense of cultural fit.”
What roles are in focus: A state by state breakdown
There is a high demand for plant mechanics with maintenance experience. Boilermakers are also sought due to the increase in fabrication work across the Hunter. Experienced SMP supervisors are needed to work on a number projects in northwest NSW.
Demand exists for dual trade diesel fitters and auto electricians rather than people with only one trade. Commercial electricians are sought to work on fixed plant and commercial projects. Belt Splicers and site inducted trades assistants are needed too.
There is a strong industry focus on engineers with a higher level ability to analyse current performance, issues and opportunities and determine how they can be improved to reduce costs in maintenance and production.
Master data specialists are in demand for system information upgrades and analysis in order to improve data integrity and ensure accuracy when reporting performance and making future predictions.
Process engineers are sought for improving production output and efficiency.
Maintenance improvement specialists are another area of demand. These candidates are wanted to improve maintenance strategy and planning to align a company’s various sites so that they all operate under best practice.
Pre-strip and multi-skilled operators, predominantly truck operators CAT 793, 797s; Dozer D10 and 11 operators, and graders 16H&M and 24H&M, are in high demand as mines receive new equipment and require more people to operate machinery and hit production targets.
Shot firers and drillers are also needed.
Reliability Engineers are in high demand. Shut-down planners are needed for contract roles.
Electrical engineers with HV and underground experience are sought. A major project is still heavily investing in its underground expansion, and this includes upgrades to current underground infrastructure and equipment, which increases power supply and in-turn demand for these engineers.
South Australia also has a shortage of rubber liners as there is no formal training school for this skill set in this state.
Crusher fitters are also needed but specialist candidates who can carry out major crusher rebuilds are in short supply. The pool of candidates predominately only has general fitting skills.
Rubber liners and belt splicers with experience are need, as there is a shortage of suitable candidates since there is no trade certificate for this role, creating a relatively small pool of candidates.
Industrial Painters/Blasters are also in high demand. Employers want candidates with XM Plural experience, which is a relatively new technology.
Hard rock underground mining electricians are needed too as gold production has increased due to a recovery of the gold price.
However a large percentage of Western Australia’s electricians went overseas for work or transferred into other industries during the downturn, leading to today’s current shortage of suitable candidates.
Gold field assistants are another area of demand. This is also the result of the improved gold price, and higher budgets for exploration, marking the first steps in an overall industry recovery.