How to encourage young people into a mining career

A group of young people considering a career in mining.

It’s never too early to encourage young people to consider a career in mining.

It’s never too early to encourage young people to consider a career in mining.

 

There’s such a diversity of roles in the industry — from geologists to metallurgists, from accountants to engineers, from diesel mechanics to health and safety officers — that there’s a job to suit everyone.

 

Yet, despite the major role mining plays in the Australian — and particularly West Australian — economy, it’s an industry that’s often overlooked by young people.

 

Mining’s image problem with young people

Jade Singleton, chairperson of Get Into Resources, a not-for-profit that encourages Year 10 students in WA to look at mining careers, says mining has an image problem it needs to overcome.

 

“We find that young people don’t typically know what you do in mining,” she said.

 

“People tend to think that to get into mining you need to drive a haul truck or work underground. The images that come to mind when you say, ‘I work in mining’, are still generally stuck in the eras gone by.

 

“One student even said, ‘I don’t think of them as having innovative jobs’. But things have evolved and there is a multitude of career opportunities, both onsite and office-based and, more recently, at home.”

 

Young people don’t know what kinds of mining jobs are available

Later this month Get Into Resources will host 500 students from a number of WA high schools, to show them the kinds of careers that are available in mining. The students take part in very practical, hands-on learning experiences.

 

We asked Jade the secret to encouraging young people to consider a career in mining.

 

“It’s all about communication and education,” she said. “It’s about explaining to them that it’s not just the typical things you think of in mining. There’s finance. There’s whole departments that do risk and safety. There’s a whole new area of mental health that most of the big mining companies have now.”

 

Jade said if a child is good at maths and science, mining might be a logical and natural fit for them. Perhaps that young person will study engineering and go on to become a mining engineer, if they know that career path is available to them.

 

But it’s the students who are good at other subjects, not naturally associated with mining, who really need to understand the breadth of careers available in the resources industry.

 

Mining companies need people with law degrees, economics degrees and accountancy qualifications. They need people who understand commerce and business administration and mergers and acquisitions, every bit as much as they need geologists and metallurgists.

 

“It really is all about exposure, getting mining careers in front of them,” Jade said.

 

Getting young people excited about mining

But the other big problem is that if young people are actually aware of mining, many don’t see it as a beneficial industry.

 

“There’s still a disconnect for teenagers about how they benefit from mining,” Jade said. “They don’t think about the fact that if we don’t have mining, we have no phones, no computers. You’d have a house, but it’d be made of something different. You wouldn’t have planes. Mining is pivotal in our day and age.

 

“We often have a few kids who ask, ‘but what about the environmental risk and hazard?’ And yes, that’s a part of mining, but if we’re going to tackle greenhouse gases and climate change, mining is where we’re going to get all the materials for the batteries.”

 

The real secret to getting kids excited about a career in mining though, Jade said, is getting them to experience the industry in a hands-on way. That’s why Get Into Resources’ syllabus is structured the way it is, with really practical experiences, like making copper and mapping a mine face. Some lucky students will even get to visit a mine site, to truly experience what mining is like “at the coalface”, or a remote operations room in the city.

 

“That’s really the cherry on the cake,” she said. “But really it’s still just all about exposure.”

 

Introducing young people to the wonderful potential of mining

So, that’s it: the secret to getting young people excited about a career in mining is showing them (not just telling them) about the diversity of wonderful careers available, and how whatever they’re interested in studying and whatever skills they have, there’s a career in mining that’s perfect for them.

 

Find out more about Get Into Resources here. Mining People is proud to be a sponsor of Get Into Resources.

Dan Hatch
Mining People International