Do people in mining think the industry has a bright future? And would they encourage young people into a mining career?
In mid-2016 our Polling/Media Centre asked this question, with the following results:
“Do you see a bright future (in mining)? Would you encourage young people to enter the mining industry?”
Scroll forward three years, to last month, and we asked the same question. What did we find?
That’s quite the shift.
So, what do these results tell us?
Some people will argue with these results – and rightfully so. But how did we get here?
The mining industry is said to be experiencing all of the following and more:
- Jobs growth
- Increasing pay rates
- Skill shortages
- New technologies.
In such times, it should come as no surprise that levels of optimism are higher than they were at the depths of the mining bust phase.
What is interesting is that even in such a positive phase for the industry, there are still almost 17% of people connected with the industry who would not be prepared to recommend it to young people as a great industry with a positive future.
It was recently reported that in Western Australia alone there are currently around 106,000 people working in the mining industry.
I know some of the people who took our survey were not currently employed in mining, but most were either current employees looking to change jobs or previously employed mine workers looking to get back into the industry.
If you apply the pessimistic percentage (the ‘no’ vote) to the 106,900 WA mine workers alone, that’s potentially around 17,900 mine workers who don’t think enough of the industry to recommend it to young people as a career choice.
I would argue this is a big number and supports some of our other recent pieces of research and other public press articles, making it very clear the industry has an image problem.
I don’t raise these things to knock my chosen industry. I love mining and I’ll tell anyone who will listen. However, I suspect I am unusual and not everyone has my ‘microphone’ to share their views.
What I can also say, though, is that as a business involved in sales and service, we conduct a huge amount of customer feedback, and as most business people will tell you, the ‘haters’ (i.e., the no vote) usually make way more noise than the ‘lovers’ (the yes vote).
Tell the world and make more noise than the pessimists
Once again, as repetitive as this is, I believe our industry needs to get out there, tap into the hearts and minds of all participants and aspirants to the industry, and make it unambiguously clear all the great things this industry has to offer.
I’m not saying ignore critical feedback and the negative perceptions. Not at all. We must listen to them, think them through and act on those that provide useful insights. But we must also continuously make more noise than the pessimists.
What about those who left the industry?
One of the things we have added into our polling in recent times (we weren’t doing this in 2016, unfortunately) is a profile of our voters.
A good sample of just under 50 of our voters were people who were not currently, but previously had been, employed in mining. Some were trying to get back in and some had no intention of returning to the industry. As a total group, those who had left the industry voted similarly:
So who was the most optimistic group of all?
There was another group of people who were attempting to get their first job in the mining industry, and they voted quite differently:
So, what can we do?
Something else we have found far more enlightening in recent times is giving our voters the chance to add an anonymous personal comment. It’s totally free-form which, as you can imagine, results in some colorful answers at times – which is why we clean it up and attempt to make sense of and classify the comments into a form that is useful for mining industry decision-makers.
So, what did the comments tell us?
Here are the distilled comments from our respondents.
The negative perceptions of mining:
- There is considerable nepotism and cronyism in supervisor ranks
- Many jobs go to people who can help employers achieve demographic quotas
- Everyone is working longer hours for less.
The positives perceptions of mining:
Interestingly most of the positive comments came from people outside the industry and who had not worked in it before, but were endeavouring to get in.
- Mining has a strong future, as humans will want minerals for a long time
- It provides a secure financial future for families
- There are great long-term opportunities out there for young people with level heads, but do the long commutes and very remote locations early on in your mining career.
I do trust this helps inform the broader public debate that is occurring right now about how to make mining and mining towns more attractive.
I also trust it will provide enlightened mining decision-makers with observations that might help them make better decisions to ensure they attract and retain the best people.
If you are looking for deep insights into the mining markets and would like MPi to conduct some targeted industry research on your behalf, then please feel free to email me.
Managing Director & Principal Executive Search - Mining People International (MPi)
Fellow/National Board Member – Recruitment, Consulting & Staffing Association Aust. & N.Z. (RCSA)