Queensland floods further impact on mining skills shortage

The Queensland floods are expected to impact the already dire skills shortage in the mining industry.

The Queensland floods are expected to impact the already dire skills shortage in the mining industry.

The actual affects will not be immediately known, as companies attempt to get their operations running again following closures due to the floods.

Perth-based regional director of resources Simom Winfields says everybody is still waiting to know the exact affects on the industry.

"Potentially it could be a problem but I haven’t yet had any feedback from clients. We just don’t know," he says.

The skills shortage in the mining industry is widely known, and workers are often lured away from projects mid-way through by bigger companies who can offer better incentives, including higher salaries and  fly-in fly-out (FIFO) agreements.

In NSW there are still not enough mining engineers and exploration geologists with hard rock experience and the coal industry has a severe lack of mining managers, surveyors, mechanical and electrical engineers, under-managers, deputies and open-cut examiners.

The quarterly report by Hays, who specialise in recruitment, salary or candidate trends impacting sectors including mining, says there are people with statutory tickets who no longer want to accept jobs with that level of responsibility.

The Northern Territory is also suffering, needing engineers for capital projects with planned upgrades of mine infrastructure, including power, water and building.

"Looking further ahead, major projects in the Territory in 2012-13 will see skilled staff become harder to secure at reasonable rates," the report adds.

Following the slowdown caused by the Global Financial Crisis, South Australia is beginning to require more skilled workers, including exploration and project geologists and exploration managers, with pressure only expected to increase over the next few months.

South Australia will also be needing people with experience in operating mines, as they move beyond exploration in many areas and new mines are expected to come on line this year.

Queensland is especially short on staff for the coal mining industry and are seeking heavy diesel fitters, as well as geologists and mine engineers.

Western Australia is the place with the highest demand for skilled mining staff, according to the Hays report.

"Demand is evident on most fronts," it says, as many heavy industrial projects are in the planning stages, requiring project managers in EPCM (engineering, procurement and construction management).

"Employers need people who have managed $100 million and above projects, but the greatest demand is for those who have worked on multimillion-dollar projects," the report said.

It goes on to add  that there is also a dire need for mechanical design engineers and lead drafters, while on the resources front, mine expansions have created new vacancies for geologists and mining engineers.

WA is also facing shortages of blue-collar workers, with a great need for trade and operator jobs including drillers and production excavators, but the report notes that this problem is the least concerning, as there is not a lack of inexperienced people wanting to work in the mines and the training times are short for those types of jobs.

The report refers to feedback from employers who say recruitment activity is expected to rise, especially from junior to mid-level mining companies and retirements at the exploration manager and chief executive level are fuelling the demand.

While many suggest foreign recruitment is the answer, Winfield says the 457 visa system required is often ineffective, because of “all the drama, cost and disappointment” of getting visas approved to allow workers to enter Australia but  who then have to leave when they are no longer required.

He says most companies are putting off using the visa and trying to find alternatives for the skills shortage.

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