Now the mining sector is recovering following its four year down turn, we come back to the reoccurring issue: Australia’s workforce does not have the skill or experience to fill the positions.
This is clear when you look at the number of Mining Engineer Graduating Universities. In 2018 Just six students were enrolled to study mining engineering at the University of New South Wales, down from 120 enrolments four years ago.
What can we do about it?
STEM education funding
In 2013, joint funding seen a $230 million Science and Technology precinct develop in Queensland for Australian STEM programmes. But this takes years to come to fruition, particularly for management positions
The precinct was a result of the government investment during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. The Education Investment Fund and the Super Science Initiative were also created.
STEM Course registrations increased during this time following the introduction of the demand driven funding system.
Increase women in the workforce
Engineering has a low intake of women and a poor retention rate due to its masculine culture. Equality should be addressed with flexible hours and open maternity leave options. Women currently receive a salary 8.5% less than males.
While the industry is fighting to create equality by promoting equality in female leadership roles. The industry needs more focus on promoting the industry to our youth before they hit the universities.
Bring stability to the mining sector
Stability makes a sector more attractive to work in or train for. Particularly to those choosing STEM programmes.
Now Australia’s mining sector is gaining confidence, the sector must learn from its mistakes and gain stability.
A rapid injection of investment and site production will create over supply. Thus, creates a downturn. Mining companies must create sustainable strategies rather than short-term supply and demand models.
While the industry can handle it’s boom and bust nature, it needs to become more desirable to the youth by bringing stability and opportunity.
Thinking outside the box
Australian mining companies have taken to refugee camps to source skilled workers that cannot be found locally. It is understood about 40 refugees have been identified already.
Improve rural residential options
Mining jobs are usually located in small rural communities that can be hard to access. A mining employee must decide whether residential or FIFO is best; to leave family and friends behind or spend days travelling.
Creating easier or more flexible housing options may attract a workforce and up-skill themselves to be in those roles.
Government incentives for home buyers to access grants to relocate, or flexible FIFO options that suit the employee.
Also promoting rural growth will increase the desirability to live and raise families in the area.