It's back to the future for mining industry job demand


As things start to hot up, it's back to the future for mining industry job demand

Job prospects in the Australian mining industry have gone through several major phases over the last five years. It’s worth briefly looking back at recent history to help us get a clear picture of where we are in terms of the supply and demand cycle for jobs.

A similar pattern was seen in other parts of the world. But Australia probably saw the wildest swings after quickly retracing from a massive investment phase in coal and iron ore, in particular.

Before 2011 

Five years or more ago we had massive demand for workers and an inadequate supply. The effect was:

  • Poor and hurried hiring decisions
  • Bad jobseeker behaviour
  • Money being thrown around and not always spent wisely

Straight after the boom (2012-2014)            

When the boom ended we immediately experienced a period of negative demand for workers. The result was:

  • Pay cuts
  • Mass redundancies
  • Large numbers of unemployed across many discipline groups

The rebalancing period (late 2014 to early 2016)

As the market recovered, the demand for and supply of workers rebalanced in some disciplines. The effect:

  • An opportunity for astute employers and company owners, with a solid medium- to long-term business vision, to attract good people at reasonable salaries.

Back to the future

Which bring us back to the future. What happens next? Where are we headed for the last few months of 2016, into the new year and beyond? Here are some key things we’re noticing:

  • Firstly, gold is clearly acting as a positive contributor to demand growth.
  • The rest of the industry is starting to need technical project studies resources again (admittedly only on contract, but nevertheless demand is picking up)
  • This brings us to the supply side, where another generation of good people has given up and exited the industry forever.
  • If things continue as they are it is likely that even without much more of a shift in demand growth, we will again find ourselves where the less attractive employers with the harder projects will have left their run too late and will find themselves fighting over a smaller and smaller pool of the best candidates.

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CAPTION: photo source Mining People International Instagram user @teejay_g

So we are headed back to a state where the demand-supply equation between employers and jobseekers in niche industries, such as mining, will return to where it inevitably spends most of its time: in a state of permanent, structural, talent shortage. It’s something the global mining industry has seen time and again over hundreds of years.

What does this mean for you as an employer?

C-suite members, directors and financial backers of mining companies will recognise that as your mining business grows, your capacity to influence every decision as you did previously will diminish. As a result the quality of frontline leadership and management in place will become just as critical to your business success as your boardroom strategy.

Your business will need both management and leadership — whether both things come in the one body or not. There’s a great checklist of the differences between managers and leaders in Warren Bennis’s book On Becoming A Leader, which will help you work out what you’ve got and what you need.

As things tighten and the power base in the mining talent demand-supply equation moves inexorably towards jobseekers, the potential for bad hires to do big damage increases. And we’re already seeing it. Here’s where companies are going wrong:

  • Cutting corners (usually caused by the pressure to act fast)
  • Wanting to save money (seemingly)
  • Employing too many mates (while they’re “known” to you, they’re not necessarily the optimal choice)

Many of these sorts of hires will sadly fail.

What does it mean to you, the executive jobseeker?

We are already seeing some jobseekers receiving approaches from people they don’t know and making rash decisions when they don’t yet need to. For good people, there are going to be plenty of good opportunities around when you’re ready to move.

We all need to do our homework; it is not that hard.

How can we help?

Obviously, at MPi Executive Search and Consulting, we are keen to help — so here’s a soft pitch from us: We’re passionate about helping those companies that are serious about doing it properly and we believe that we deliver a hundred times more value than the cost of our service.

If the brief perspectives above ring a chord at a surface level, then please call us for a detailed discussion and some further evidence that we know what we are talking about.

Steve Heather FRCSA
Managing Director & Principal Executive Search 
Mining People International
Steve Heather signature
Steve Heather – BAppSc (Mining Engineering) WASM, FRCSA

Managing Director & Principal Executive Search - Mining People International (MPi)

Fellow/National Board Member – Recruitment, Consulting & Staffing Association Aust. & N.Z. (RCSA)

[email protected]