Poll results: Entry-level Mining candidates still missing out

Open Pit Excavator

How has the mining industry changed over the past few decades? That’s the question we asked in last month’s poll.

The mining industry hasn’t done enough to improve opportunities for entry-level candidates over the past quarter century, despite huge improvements in other areas.

That’s the take-out message from the latest Mining People Poll.

The online poll, taken in March 2020 and available on the MPi website, sought the views of jobseekers and mining industry employees and leaders. In two questions, we asked them where they felt the industry had improved over the past 25 years and where they felt it had not improved. Respondents were given 20 options and asked to select all that applied. 

The poll came as we celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary in business. MPi team members found ourselves reflecting on the many ways we feel the mining industry has changed for the better over that time.

Some of what we discovered didn’t surprise us at all. Some of what we discovered should be cause for concern.

  

Opportunities for entry-level candidates no better

Opportunities for entry-level candidates faired the worst in both questions. It came last in the poll on where the industry had improved, with just 29% saying things were better than they were a quarter of a century ago.

That result was compounded when respondents were asked where they felt the industry had not improved, with a shocking 41% saying conditions were no better than 1995.

We also invited respondents to leave a comment, if they wished. The following example from those comments is a lament we, as mining industry recruiters, hear a lot:

“It’s always been ‘who you know’ to get a start. So many courses and licences, but no-one will give you a start unless you have experience! How does one get experienced without being given a chance? What is the point of holding nationally accredited licences?”

As the labour market tightens, the industry will need to look more closely at how to improve opportunities for entry-level candidates.

  

Safety improvements most noticeable change

But it’s not all brickbats. There were also some bouquets.

It’s probably no surprise that changes to workplace safety came out on top of the list of improvements to the industry over the past 25 years.

When presented with a list of 20 suggestions and the option to choose all they felt applied, 69% of respondents chose safety as an area of big change.

Those who have been in the industry a long time will have seen the introduction of personal protective equipment, occupational health and safety procedures and a big increase in health and safety training.

 

A reflection of a changing world

The top improvement responses are a fascinating mix that reflect the priorities of mining companies and jobseekers alike, as well as the wider community’s expectations of work.

For example, as we as recruiters have increasingly seen over recent years, mining job candidates are looking for good working conditions, a work-life balance, and a good salary. Sixty per cent of respondents said working conditions had improved over the past 25 years, while 55% said work-life balance and salaries were better now.

Some areas where the industry has focused attention over recent decades were also considered to have improved, including opportunities for indigenous job candidates (58%), environmental awareness (58%), equal opportunities for genders (51%) and the treatment and understanding of people with mental health conditions.

  

Here’s the full list of improvements and how people responded.

Safety

69%

Working conditions

60%

Opportunities for indigenous candidates

58%

Environmental awareness

58%

Work-life balance

55%

Salaries

55%

Equal opportunities for genders

51%

Treatment and understanding of mental health conditions

47%

People management

45%

Maternity and paternity leave

42%

Opportunities for graduates

41%

Workplace flexibility

40%

Recognition of skills and experience

40%

Treatment of contractors

39%

Promotion of the industry

36%

Opportunities for apprentices and trainees

35%

Opportunities for contractors

34%

Onboarding

33%

Promotion of industry careers

33%

Overtime earning opportunities

31%

Opportunities for entry-level candidates

29%

 

Still room for improvement

But there’s still work to do in several areas that perhaps we thought we were doing well in. Forty per cent of respondents said people management had not improved and 33% said recognition of skills and experience was still a problem.

  

Here’s how people voted.

Opportunities for entry-level candidates

41%

People management

40%

Work-life balance

35%

Recognition of skills and experience

33%

Opportunities for apprentices and trainees

30%

Treatment of contractors

30%

Safety

30%

Promotion of the industry

30%

Treatment and understanding of mental health conditions

29%

Overtime earning opportunities

29%

Onboarding

29%

Workplace flexibility

28%

Opportunities for contractors

28%

Salaries

28%

Promotion of industry careers

27%

Working conditions

24%

Opportunities for graduates

24%

Equal opportunities for genders

23%

Opportunities for indigenous candidates

20%

Environmental awareness

20%

Maternity and paternity leave

19%

 

Let’s not sleep on the changes we need to make

Our industry is facing many challenges right now, not least of which is the impact of the coronavirus, COVID-19, and the almost total shutdown of the Australian (and global) economy.

While for some in the industry, work goes on, others have a bit of time on our hands. Perhaps now is the opportunity to think about ways to improve some of those areas where our industry is falling behind?

 

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 email us.

Dan Hatch
Mining People International