Poll results: what candidates want to go residential

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Poll results: We wanted to know what it would take to convince mining job candidates to take on residential roles. Here’s what they told us.

What will it take to attract more mining job candidates to Kalgoorlie and other regional mining centres?

Cold hard cash.

That’s the verdict of 273 respondents to an online survey by the Mining People Polling/Media Centre, conducted in November 2019.

We asked our readers: What do you think mining employers and councils would need to do to encourage you to move to a regional mining centre like Kalgoorlie-Boulder?

We gave readers a range of options and asked them to rank their top three. In total, we received 906 ranked votes.

Let’s look at the results.

What are the top ways to attract mining job candidates to regional centres?

No matter which way you cut the data – most total votes or most first-choice votes ­– one idea came out on top: mining job candidates want subsidised housing and living costs if they take on a residential mining role.

Subsidies were ranked #1 by 42.18% of respondents.

Here is the full list of first-preference answers, by percentage of total respondents:

1. Subsidise housing and living costs for local residents 42.18%
2. Pay higher wages to local residents 20.26%
3. Employ unskilled labour and offer training 10.71%
4. Provide tax relief and tenure bonuses for residential mining employees 10.35%
5. Offer cheaper airfares for local residents 6.17%
6. Subsidise private education for local residents 4.53%
7. Provide additional annual leave 4.13%
8. Run better marketing campaigns 1.67%

Digging a little deeper;

Interestingly, of the 42.18% who chose subsidised housing and living costs as their first choice, 31.6% chose “pay higher wages to local residents” as their second option and 22.4% chose “provide tax relief and tenure bonuses for residential mining employees”.

Clearly cash is king.


What are the top three ideas to attract mining talent overall?

When you add up the 1st, 2nd and 3rd preferences scored by each benefit, you get more of a blended picture.

1. Subsidise housing and living costs for local residents 23.43%
2. Pay higher wages to local residents 16.55%
3. Provide tax relief and tenure bonuses for residential mining employees 15.89%
4. Offer cheaper airfares for local residents 11.92%
5. Provide additional annual leave 10.37%
6. Employ unskilled labour and offer training 9.27%
7. Subsidise private education for local residents 8.71%
8. Run better marketing campaigns 3.86%

This set of results shows respondents rated a much larger range of factors between circa 10% and 24%. We think this probably blends the data too much and loses the focus on what can be done to make the biggest difference, quickly.

What did respondents have to say about their answers?

As we often do with our polling centre surveys, we gave respondents the chance to leave any comment they like. It’s fair to say this opportunity was taken up with gusto.

Here is a selection of typical responses. They make fascinating reading (note: some have been edited for clarity).

Investment, longevity and community connection

“Your biggest investment is your house. You can’t risk buying a house and losing money, so you have no attachment to local community. It means you’re always going to leave some day – it’s just a matter of when.”

Risk of tenure and severance packages

“The biggest risk for a family moving to a remote location is the loss of employment. For a family to commit to move to a remote location, there needs to be a reasonable termination package over and above the Fair Work Act requirements. This may require a person to work their probation period as FIFO until permanent employment is offered and the family can then join them once the probation period of employment is finished.”

Livability and community

“Just implementing one of these will not encourage anyone to stay. The town needs to become a place people want to be. Companies having people introduce new employees and family to the rest of the community is a great starting point. Other companies just offering a loan to move here doesn’t really make someone want to live here.”

Training and employment practices

“Offer people direct hire jobs, with training, without the minimum one, two or three years’ experience, and hire people over 40.”

Pass on the FIFO savings

“Some of the savings that companies make for having residential employees should be passed on, but there also needs to be additional tax advantages. I spent two years in Southern Cross, where living was subsidised, and nine years in Kalgoorlie, where it wasn’t. I saved money in the two years in Southern Cross and lost money in Kalgoorlie.”

It’s cash they want, but is it cash we can afford?

Whatever the solution is for encouraging people to up sticks and move to a residential mining town, it was always going to require investment.

What’s clear from these results is that the kind of investment most people are looking for is the kind they can spend themselves.

During the industry uptick of the past couple of years, there has been a real effort within the industry to avoid the hyperinflated salaries we saw during the last boom. That’s to be commended – and it’s something we’ve certainly encouraged.

Last time around we, as an industry, discovered throwing cash at a problem not only doesn’t solve it, it can make things worse.

No-one wants to see a return to unsustainable labour costs, but if mining companies share some of the savings they make from reducing FIFO, with residential employees, that’s not actually increasing costs. So, it’ll be interesting to see which solutions our industry and our civic leaders pick to help tackle this very sticky problem of attracting mining talent to our regional centres.

Do your own research to gain a competitive advantage

You can use the Mining People Polling/Media Centre to commission your own targeted research, with results provided exclusively to you. Please contact us if you’d like to know more.


Steve Heather signature
Steve Heather – BAppSc (Mining Engineering) WASM, FRCSA

Managing Director & Principal Executive Search - Mining People International (MPi)

Fellow/National Board Member – Recruitment, Consulting & Staffing Association Aust. & N.Z. (RCSA)