Mining Engineers – As mining companies streamline their workforce they are looking for more highly skilled candidates to perform in both planning and production roles, yet salaries have remained the same.
Geotechnical Engineers – Employers are looking for Geotechnical Engineers with at least one to three years underground experience rather than taking on graduates. Yet there is a shortage of suitable candidates at this level.
Senior Metallurgists – As mining companies remain focused on increasing productivity from their existing plants, employers are looking for Senior Metallurgists with very specialised experienced. These highly skilled candidates are in strong demand.
HV Electricians – Even though there are many candidates in the market with the correct qualifications, employers look for candidates that have very specific experience with the type and model of machinery used on their projects.
Diesel Fitters – As with HV Electricians, employers demand very specific experience in terms of the type and model of the machinery previously worked on.
All-round Trainers & Assessors – These candidates are always in high demand as few people gain enough experience operating the broad range of machinery used on sites. Those that reach a sufficient level of proficiency must then be able to offer training.
Authorised Mine Surveyors – There are not many candidates who can sign off on plans since few complete all the stages and levels required to gain qualification. As this is also a statutory requirement, employers must have an Authorised Mine Surveyor to sign off changes. Consequently demand is very high for these professionals.
Reliability Engineers – These Engineers are scarce and few people have the degree and mine site experience required.
Maintenance Planners – These professionals are highly sought after as they need to be experienced with a minimum of 10 years in a trade, followed by progression into the highly trained role of Planner rather than Supervisor. In addition, as mine sites age and equipment depreciates, there is more of a focus on maintenance and demand for these skills is therefore increasing.
Shutdown Planners – Site shutdowns require specialised Planners who have the skills and experience to understand the procedures involved. Therefore these Planners are always in demand.
Underground Heavy Diesel Fitters – Companies now require candidates with HDF trade certification, however there are currently not enough qualified Fitters in the market. Previously, candidates with site experience were accepted, but now OHS requirements and changes in insurance coverage mean that they need the correct documentation to back up their skills. Without certified Fitters, companies’ liabilities could potentially be too high.
Underground Auto Electricians – Similar to HDFs, qualified Auto Electricians are also in demand.
HD Fitters – Trades are sought in the Northern Territory, particularly HD Fitters. But given the current focus on productivity and costs, mining employers are only offering fly in fly out (FIFO) work from Darwin, with the expectation that candidates will cover the flight cost to Darwin. As a result, there is a shortage of suitable candidates.
As mining companies continue to focus on productivity we are finding that there is demand for locally-based candidates with key technical skills at a number mines, as regionally sourced mining professionals help minimise costs.
If skilled candidates are prepared to live in regional Queensland, companies can often create permanent opportunities for them. In recent months we have also seen a rise in technical white collar contract positions in that state. This is a result of the large scale redundancies across both the coal and metalliferous sector in the past six months.
This focus on contract roles is seen across the country. Fluctuating commodity prices and the highly valued Australian dollar have meant that mining houses are still not able to commit to hiring permanent employees, but can use contactors to help meet their short-term production/operational targets.
For both blue and white collar jobs we are consistently seeing a trend towards dual trade and skilled candidates. In the blue collar space, candidates who are both qualified HV Electricians and Diesel Fitters are preferred as they provide a higher level of versatility. There is also a preference for Mining Engineers who can contribute to both drill and blast design and long term planning.
Maintenance specialists remain in demand and there is a good rate of job flow and quality candidates. There is a real mix in the market depending on the size of the company, the commodity, and their plans for this financial year.
Gold, nickel and copper companies have made real cutbacks, however there are some temporary jobs available in areas where they have cut spending too far.
The iron ore price is holding up well but any plans for immediate expansion are being treated cautiously. Any jobs are likely to be temporary.
Candidate levels have increased and there are some well qualified and experienced professionals among them. However we are also finding that there are candidates who lack good experience, despite being paid well during the boom.
Companies are much less likely to support 457 visas at the moment as they want to look for local candidates. FIFO interstate work is also less likely in the foreseeable future as more candidates are available in local markets.