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Mining and construction employers continue consistent hiring demand

The latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey has shown Australia’s Mining and construction sector is set to continue its consistent hiring streak into the next quarter (June-August 2011).

The forward-looking quarterly survey asks Australian employers whether they intend to increase or decrease hiring over the next three months. These percentages then form a seasonally adjusted Net Employment Outlook to track the expected movement in the employment market for the coming quarter.

In the Mining and construction sector, 34 per cent of companies expect to increase hiring (a slight decrease from 37 per cent last quarter), while 10 per cent plan to decrease hiring (up from 8 per cent in Q.2). As a result, the Net Employment Outlook for the sector is holding steady at +26 per cent.

According to Lincoln Crawley, Managing Director of ManpowerGroup Australia & New Zealand, mining companies are expecting a spike in demand for exploration workers, fuelled by strong interest in the sector from the Asia Pacific region.

“The mining and construction sector has seen continuous growth since the end of the financial crisis and many projects across the country are only just ramping up. Competition is growing for skilled trades and skilled machine operators in particular, and we’re going to start seeing more and more gaps as companies move further down project timelines,” he said.

Crawley says there are several trades that are in acute demand right now. “Mobile plant equipment fitters, electricians, electrical instrumentation fitters and auto-electricians are at the top of the list for skilled trades shortages at the moment,” he said.

“We’ve got a people shortage, not just a skills shortage. There is a lack of people willing to commit to the mining sector lifestyle and, despite the government’s Budget initiatives, companies are still going to struggle attracting the skills they need.”

“It’s one thing to say that we can source these skills from overseas, but we have to remember that skills shortages overseas, especially for skilled trades, are also coming to the fore – so competition is rife wherever you go.”

To contend with skills shortages and meet the hiring needs indicated for the next three months, Mr Crawley stresses employers need to be more strategic in their training and workforce planning.

“Companies in the mining sector will need to have a hard think about their employment value proposition.

“How do they plan to keep the staff they already have? How can they protect their workforce from poaching from other companies in other locations and other industries? What’s going to entice a skilled worker to work for them, as opposed to someone else?

“The answer can’t just be ‘money’ – that is simply unsustainable. There’s no denying that money will be a big factor, but training, development, internal work opportunities and better lifestyle options are going to become increasingly relevant to the current and future mining workforce,” Crawley said.

He added that ManpowerGroup has launched an online portal to encourage conversation around the resources skills shortage, at www.miningforskills.com.au

Crawley says there is an immediate need to focus on up-skilling the workforce, to get the right talent in the right place at the right time.

“Despite the unemployment rate, we still have an oversupply of available workers and an under supply of qualified talent. We need to look at ways to ‘manufacture’ the talent needed in the booming industries from the pool of workers coming out of the sluggish ones.”

Crawley believes companies need to think more carefully about their workforce strategy and develop a long term approach.

“It would be unthinkable for a company not to consider the quality and availability of raw material when developing a long-term business strategy. A beverage manufacturer, for example, would not plot its future growth strategy without identifying a sustainable supply of aluminum to manufacture cans. Businesses must now look at their workforce through a similar lens.”

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