Employment and change management in the downturn.

National Mining Chronicle spoke to Hays WA State Regional Director Chris Kent, pictured below, about employment and change management in the downturn and how mining workers can prepare for an increasingly saturated job market.

Describe the current hiring activity in the resources industry.

It has been pretty well publicised that there is not a lot of hiring activity. I saw a Treasury report recently that said 13,000 mining workers have lost their jobs this year or there has been a reduction of 13,000 mining jobs this year. This really means the mines that do have a sustainable model and are above the thresholds of iron ore prices are obviously doing bespoke recruitment for the needs within the business, but are looking to drive efficiency where required. So there is recruitment happening, but it is generally strategic recruitment to replace roles that have become redundant.

Which jobs are in demand?

On the blue-collar side, anyone who has significant iron ore experience in driving efficiencies is in demand. In gold and other commodities, people who are willing to live residentially in areas such as Kalgoorlie are favoured to avoid the cost associated with a fly-in, fly-out workforce. There are jobs for people who are willing to look at the new rosters being rolled out; it is quite well publicised at Fortescue Metals Group which is switching from a roster of eight days on and six days off to two weeks on and one week off. It changes the lifestyle dynamics for some workers, so it is not for everyone. On the white-collar side, it is the same trend – efficiencies. Reliability engineers, cost engineers, shutdown planners, those types of roles are needed.

What’s your advice for mining-related university graduates and tradespeople seeking employment?

It just depends on the degrees they have obtained. If it is an engineering degree, it can be utilised in other sectors and we would advise they do look at the other sectors such as construction and manufacturing and be prepared to relocate to different parts of Australia or even overseas. In regards to tradespeople, again look at transferable trades in other sectors. But then comes the reality of changing sectors where their wages are likely to reduce because they are essentially having to reskill themselves in a new sector.

Should companies be doing more to identify opportunities for redundant workers such as retraining, development roles and temporary reassignment?

I’m not sure if it is a realistic model for mining companies that have obviously paid inflated wages for a long period of time through the upswing to be expected to cover the costs of reskilling their workers into another industry. In terms of government initiatives to retrain, I think there is some merit in that, definitely.


Mining and resources recruitment activity around the country

Western Australia:
Underground electricians with underground mining experience as well as residential geologists required to live and work in Kalgoorlie are in demand as more gold mines are ramping up production. Maintenance planners are needed as many maintenance crews are now servicing the same amount of equipment but with significantly fewer members on their team. Good planners with strong iron ore process plant experience are highly sought after to maximise a crew’s performance.

Due to cost-cutting exercises, maintenance supervisors are needed to improve efficiency for fixed plant maintenance. Mining engineers who have the ability to look for cost-saving solutions are sought after.

South Australia:
Reliability engineers are in demand as most mechanical engineers pursue a career in projects or design, creating a shortage. Those who can cut costs and increase production are sought after. The lack of training and apprenticeships has led to a skills shortage for rubber liners. Most good liners have retained work interstate.

Source: Hays Recruitment.

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