Wage pressure ‘inevitable’ as skills shortages worsen

Image: Fitzroy Australia Resources.

Recruitment agency Hays expects skills shortages in mining to be a major concern as the sector competes with other growth industries around Australia.

The agency last month revealed that a wide range of mining jobs were in demand due to escalating skills shortages.

Hays’ findings confirmed that the shortages have become a national issue after they first re-emerged in the key mining states of Western Australia and Queensland up to 18 months ago.

A Hays report showed that South Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory had several areas of concerns, including engineers, geologists, operators and electricians.

The mining resurgence in Tasmania and Victoria has meant that those states are also starting to feel shortages as activity increases.

Hays WA state director Chris Kent said with many skills transferring to the civil infrastructure sector there was no doubt that sourcing talent was a national concern for the mining industry.

“As more major transport projects ramp up in 2019 in Australia’s most populous cities of Melbourne and Sydney, several multibillion dollar mine expansions will be looking to lure engineering and construction talent to our mining regions. Wage pressure is inevitable over the coming months,” Kent told Australian Mining.

Kent said mining and METS (mining equipment, technology and services) companies were looking at new recruitment methods to source employees and overcome the skill shortages.

“More broadly the sector is trying to attract new talent by demonstrating the social impact of their products on a clean energy future i.e. lithium and copper as vital components of electric cars,” Kent said.

“Experienced workers are being enticed by more family friendly ‘even time’ rosters, as well as more technology focused, city-based roles as automation reduces high risk, remote work.”

Fitzroy Australia Resources has decided to target workers without previous mining experience for its Ironbark No. 1 underground coal project in Queensland.

The company will require 350 workers for the operation, with the employees expected be an even split of new and experienced personnel.

Fitzroy chief executive officer Grant Polwarth described the skills shortages as “very real” for the underground coal sector.

He said the shortages included a series of roles, from statutory officials, to trades, to operators.

“We must innovate and bring new people into the industry who share our values. This is the only way we will attract a uniquely talented team to help us build our business,” Polwarth told Australian Mining.

METS companies join miners like Fitzroy in seeking ways to avoid skills shortages that could impact their contracts or service offering.

Kent said all companies in the mining supply chain were affected to some extent.

“At the moment it is impacting mining services companies, specialist contractors who don’t have the margins to increase wages, as well as the junior to mid-tier operators who don’t have the brand to attract new talent,” Kent said.

Kent recommended that mining and METS companies focus on their employer value proposition with a multi-pronged approach for bringing in new talent from TAFEs or universities to help source workers.

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