How to adapt your skills to ensure a long career in mining


Mining jobs are changing fast. Here is how you can skill yourself so you’re prepared for the industry’s future needs and ensure you have a long career.

If you’re looking for a long-term career in Australia, you could do much worse than choose the mining industry. According to the Minerals Council of Australia, minerals have contributed 21 per cent of the country’s GDP in the last decade. In 2021-22, Australia’s export of minerals, metals and energy commodities was worth $413 billion—or 69 per cent of total export revenue.

The significance of mining to the Australian economy is not about to disappear. There are great jobs, fantastic employers, wonderful opportunities, and long and lucrative careers in the offing.

But it’s also true to say that mining is changing. Technology, including automation and AI, is quickly changing the kind of work and the roles available. So, what can you do now to set yourself up to ensure you have that long career you’ve imagined or expected?

Mining has a long history of change

The first thing to note is that mining has always embraced technology and evolved. Change is a good thing. It has brought us safer mines and greater efficiency. We probably all learned at school about kids going down coal mines in Victorian-era England and the entrepreneurial prospectors who bought a pick and a wheelbarrow and walked out to the gold rush towns of Western Australia and Victoria.

How far the mining industry in Australia has come. In living memory, workers were paid in cash. Sites had no ablutions for women in the single men’s quarters. If you saw flashing lights on a vehicle, it was the bomb crew only (apparently that was the only vehicle you needed to get out of the way of). FIFO was rare. Everyone worked 8-hour shifts.

Like every other part of life, mining has evolved.

How the mining industry has changed

Fast-forward to current day: trucks run up and down pits without a driver and trains in the Pilbara are operated remotely. Dozers and blast hole rigs on some sites are also being operated remotely.

There has been considerable change in all industries in the past 30 or so years. It seems that change of pace is not only going to continue, it’s likely to escalate. This article from 2017 reckoned 85 per cent of the jobs people would have in 2030 had not been invented yet. That probably sounded crazy at the time, but think about how quickly AI is changing the landscape for many industries just in this past year alone, and suddenly it doesn’t seem so outlandish.

So, how do you set yourself up to ensure a long future in an ever-evolving industry like mining?

How do you remain employed in mining in the years ahead?

As an individual, trying to keep pace with the advances in technology could in itself be a full-time job. It’s almost impossible. Therefore, it’s much smarter to focus on developing soft skills: adaptability, managing change, problem-solving, collaborating, communication and critical thinking, for example. These are all skills that the future mining industry worker will need.

Learning to develop these skills will be essential. So, where do you start?

Establish what your skills gaps are. Ask a few people you work with what skills they think you lack or could improve. Choose carefully whom you ask: asking your friends may not be the best option. Ask people who know you well enough in the workplace, perhaps even choosing people who understand exactly what you do for a living. Or, better yet, ask during your next performance review.

You might also consider getting an actual assessment of your soft skills with a Harrison Assessment. These assessments help you identify your key strengths and, from there, compare your strengths to the skills of the future.

Make sure to register your details with us to ensure you’re considered for upcoming opportunities that match your skill set.

Dan Hatch
Mining People International