Mining employment grows yet skills shortage remains

Employment in the mining industry grew over the 20 years to November 2023 and the number of workers increased by 10,200 (or 3.5%) over the past year.

Yet mining companies continue to struggle to recruit workers to fill specialist roles amid a collapse in skilled migration in what industry leaders say is the worst skills crisis in a generation.

Roles ranging from mine planning to process engineering, and digital (data science and automation) remain in high demand but are increasingly difficult to fill.

Mining engineering enrolments have been dropping year-on-year for the past decade in Australia and the US, and the resources sector is not seen as an attractive industry for young talent in Canada.

According to McKinsey & Company, industry data shows the employee value proposition (EVP) in mining has also been deteriorating with demand outstripping the supply of mining talent.

The company says in Australia mining job vacancies have more than doubled since February 2020.

However, Victoria University employment projections anticipate in the five years to May 2028 employment in Australia’s resources sector will grow by 35,400 people – or 11.9%.

From May 2023 to May 2028, Victoria University anticipates that overall national employment will increase by 910,400 people (or 6.5%). Over the 10 years to May 2033, national employment is projected to increase by 1.974 million people, or 14.2%.

In December 2023 the Australian government released the Migration Strategy, which provides the roadmap for reform of the country’s migration system. The strategy seeks to take a longer term evidence-based approach to planning migration that closely collaborates with the states and territories and is driven by the advice of Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA).

The Migration Strategy notes that transparency will be a guiding principle of JSA’s role in the migration system, and that JSA will submit its findings to the government and publish its analysis and recommendations.

JSA’s stakeholder consultation process began in Q1 2024.

In the Recruitment Experiences and Outlook Survey (REOS) Recruitment Insights Report for March 2024, released on 16 April 2024, headline figures from the March data point to an easing labour market, with the number of employers recruiting (49%) remaining unchanged over the month.

In smoothed terms, the recruitment rate edged down slightly over the month, after being generally steady over the previous six months.

The Recruitment Insights Report suggests employers overall are finding it easier to hire staff with the recruitment difficulty rate easing four percentage points over the month to 50%. This decline marks the lowest difficulty rate since March 2021.

According to the report, the outlook for staffing was more subdued in March 2024 with the proportion of employers expecting to increase staff over the next three months dropping four percentage points over the month to 22%.

Setting aside normal month-to-month survey volatility, hiring intentions have been fairly flat for the past year, the report concludes.

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Images: Investigator Resources & Jobs and Skills Australia
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Written By Adam Orlando Editor-in-Chief Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Orlando has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.