Let’s call out ageism in the mining industry


It is time we all considered our contribution to ageism in the workplace.

Ageism in the mining industry is, regrettably, something jobseekers come across all the time.

There have been countless studies, articles and social media debates about it, and it continues to crop up in conversation almost daily.

So, it’s no surprise it’s a topic we’ve visited several times before, including an article about overcoming the “you’re too qualified” problem.

Despite all this, it is still apparent that individuals over a certain age are being overlooked. And as someone over 50 myself, I’m over it.

RELATED: Why ageism affects us all — even in the mining industry

Employ older workers in the mining industry

Employing Older Workers is a report based on a survey of Australian Human Resources Institute members, taken in July and August of 2018. While the results indicate attitudes towards hiring older employees are improving, they also call into question whether this improvement in attitude is applicable to hiring managers within organisations (and not just AHRI members).

I would suggest not. And I base that on the fact we still regularly receive feedback such as this on candidates we’ve submitted for mining positions:

  • “we’re after someone a bit younger”
  • “we are after someone with less experience”
  • “do you know how old this person is?”

And we still hear feedback from unsuccessful candidates who report being told:

  • “you may struggle with working for a younger manager”
  • “we feel you have too much experience for what we are looking for”
  • “we’re looking for someone who can work 12-hour days”.

Hearing from candidates about the reasons they are given for not progressing through the application process is disheartening. When we are asked on social media whether there is an “age limit” for applicants, it’s uncomfortable. It makes you wonder how many times this particular candidate has been knocked back for a mining job.

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Fewer older people working; more on Newstart

The number of people aged 55 to 64 on the Federal Government’s Newstart Allowance for jobseekers has risen by more than 55,000 in less than five years. Someone in organisations around Australia is not employing these people!

There is a lot of talk about diversity and the attraction and retention of younger people to ensure the continuity of the industry. And I agree; these things are important. But the industry also needs to retain experienced people. And not just those in management roles, but operational and supervisory personnel, too.

We need to retain their experience, their knowledge and their skills. We need age diversity in our industry. We need them to work with the next generation, to help the younger workers to develop and grow and to prevent us repeating mistakes of the past.

FURTHER READING: Am I too old for a job in the mining industry?  

Employing older miners is part of embracing diversity

The majority of companies are embracing diversity. However, statistics show that this isn’t extending to older Australians, with research showing the worst age bracket for unemployment is the over 50s.

Consider that in the US almost 35% of their workforce will be aged over 50 by 2020. The 2016 Australian Census had almost 40% of the Australian workforce aged over 45. So, it’s likely our over-50 demographics by 2020 will be about the same as the US.

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To my way of thinking, we are at a tipping point. If about 35% of the workforce is about to become invisible in the recruitment and selection process, where does that leave you?

Mining companies and mining recruiters are regularly identifying solutions to attract more skilled employees, like workplace flexibility, job sharing and work patterns. But why not embrace age diversity? The benefits are there for all to see.

Managing a diverse workforce, working flexibly, in various locations, across multiple disciplines is hard. Running a mine or company without a full complement of personnel is much harder.

We are keen to hear your thoughts. Feel free to email me here.

Mining People International has more than 23 years’ specialist experience helping mining companies with their HR services. Find out more about our HR consulting services here or get in touch today.