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The second golden age of Australian mining

In 2010 The National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce reported that for the five years to 2015 the mineral sector’s operational workforce is expecting a 4.9 per cent growth rate, resulting in the creation of 61,500 new jobs, in addition to the existing 194,000 jobs that currently directly exist in the sector.

The expected growth has long foreshadowed the need for new skilled employees as the mining sector appeals to state and federal governments for bolder skills training programs and skilled migration policies, including increasing temporary working visas as are currently used in high frequency in the mining sector.

The Federal Government’s 2011 Budget had skills issues at the forefront, including packages for Australian workers such as $558 million for the Workforce Development Fund, with $200 million to support apprenticeships, as well as the creation of 16,000 skilled migration places.

Minerals Council of Australia, Chairman Peter Johnson, welcomed the Federal Government’s 2011-12 Budget attention to the skills issue.

“On skills, the industry welcomed the budget’s focus on skills and training. New initiatives to improve education and training systems, boost workforce participation and facilitate skilled migration should help ease the skills shortages,” Johnson told guests at Mineral Council of Australia’s Minerals Week seminar in June.

Regional Director of Hays Resources & Mining, Simon Winfield, said the company is expecting a rush of recruitment opportunities in the sector.

“The shortage of appropriate skills is a huge challenge; most, if not all, employers have hinted that they will be recruiting in the next few months and given the larger investment of this boom we expect the skills shortage to reach a height never before seen,” he said.

Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive, Michael Roche, said that while he acknowledged positive steps have been made on the skills shortages front, he remains unconvinced about the Federal Government’s imminent price on carbon.

“What Treasurer Swan refers to as ‘Mining Boom Mark II’ will only disappoint if a price on carbon makes Queensland’s minerals and energy industries uncompetitive globally,” Roche said.

Private sector skills case study
Coal mining services contracting business, Mastermyne, in June announced a $3 million training facility to train ‘cleanskins’ (employees with no previous experience in mining), a project fully funded by the company.

The training centre replicates the underground workings of a coal mine and includes actualsized tunnels, operating conveyors and the equipment used underground.

The International recruiting company Randstand is working with Mastermine in recruiting skilled international mine workers from its countries of operations in Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, UK and others.

Zena Clark, General Manager of Randstad CPE, told Australasian Mine Safety Journal that the program is on target to recruit 300 skilled workers.

“We put together an innovative approach to fighting ‘the war on talent’, the idea is that we would be fishing in the ocean, rather than just a pond,” she said.

As a working destination, Clark says that Australia is not the most difficult sell to potential workers.

“Being realistic is one part, but [we] also sell the dream – talking about some of the money they can earn and they kind of lifestyle they can have in Australia.”

Clark says that while the federal government has made in-roads into skilled migration, long-term investment is required to meet labour demands.

“The government needs to make it as easy as possible for employers to sponsor overseas workers who are experienced in the sector… And they need to listen to the industry for specific skill sectors. Is it white collar, is it blue collar, or is it both?”

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AMSJ April 2022