Why ageism affects us all - even in the mining industry

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It's time we had an important conversation about ageism and its effect on the mining industry.

Ageism is in the news again. In recent weeks, I have read articles, comments and social media posts on the topic, and the underlying themes are concerning – especially for Australia’s mining industry.

Consider these notions:

  • Young people cannot secure full-time work, with many working several jobs just to make ends meet
  • Older people cannot find suitable employment past a certain age
  • Young people are too confident and don’t stick around
  • When applying for a job you’re told you’re either too experienced, or you don’t have enough experience
  • According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, more than 35% of jobseekers over the age of 55 have stopped looking for work because they believe employers will view them as too old.

Despite what we would all like to believe, ageism, or age discrimination, exists every day.

According to the World Health Organisation, “ageism is the stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination against people on the basis of their age.”

The focus is on ‘older’ people, however the reality is anyone of any age can be discriminated against based on their age. 

How ageism affects recruitment in mining

Here are some ageist comments I’ve heard in conversations, usually within the context of the mining industry, of late.

  • Young people are difficult to manage
  • They’re not committed (I’m not sure if this was in reference to younger or older people. Perhaps both?)
  • Old people expect too much in the way of salary
  • They’re just filling in time till they retire
  • You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
  • Young people just don’t know how to work
  • Old people are too set in their ways
  • The youth of today expect an award just for turning up to work.

As a resume writer, I am galled that one of the key pieces of advice to increase the chances an experienced person progresses past application stage is to only load the last 10 to 15 years on a resume. People are told not to add dates for when they completed tertiary studies.

Do these companies and recruiters want an experienced person or not?

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

A frequently offered career suggestion for young people struggling to find work is to “create your own opportunities”. In what? Great idea, but not everyone is creative, entrepreneurial and wants to survive on two-minute noodles while developing the next big thing.

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Ageism in mining and what to do about it

A lot has been written about the upcoming (perhaps I should say current) skills shortage in the Australian mining industry. Yet here at MPi we still hear from individuals with ‘significant’ career history who say they are unable to secure a mining job.

Likewise, those who have been out of the industry for some time following the lengthy downturns are still finding it difficult to secure permanent work.

While there could be numerous reasons these individuals are getting this feedback, as an industry facing another skills shortage, we simply cannot ignore the fact that there are experienced people who are able to make viable and worthwhile contributions for years ahead.

We also cannot ignore the young people who were unable to secure a graduate role during the mining downturn and moved into other industries.

Age discrimination affects the young and the not so young.

It affects emotional wellbeing, self-esteem and commitment.

 It affects the physical health of individuals. 

Ageism is a form of discrimination we can all relate to. After all, we were all young once – and, hopefully, we will all get the opportunity to grow old. While companies have age included in their diversity policy, how many of us as individuals actually stop and consider ageism impacts young and old alike?

This article by Joe Hockey when he was Federal Treasurer highlights the reasons why ageism in the workplace hurts us all. You can also read more on age discrimination here.

No matter our age, we all want to know we are contributing, valued, and appreciated and that our input counts. Consider this when looking for your next employee or identifying personnel for training opportunities.

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.