Con­sult­ing firms fill mine va­can­cies

Pilbara News - - News - Kim Mac­don­ald

The ex­tent of the min­ing down­turn has been high­lighted by fig­ures show­ing the WA sec­tor has lost an av­er­age of 165 jobs ev­ery week for more than 21⁄2 years.

In March there were 83,835 min­ing sec­tor jobs, ex­clud­ing on­shore pe­tro­leum, which was 21,165 fewer full-time po­si­tions than dur­ing the boom time of Au­gust 2013, ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Mines and Pe­tro­leum.

The stun­ning work­force con­trac­tion raises the ques­tion as to where all the work­ers have gone.

Peter Dy­ball, from labour mar­ket fore­caster Pit Crew Con­sult­ing, claims big num­bers of work­ers had re­turned east or abroad or had picked up work in com­mer­cial prop­erty and in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment.

He said there was also some truth to the in­dus­try joke that no one was un­em­ployed af­ter a min­ing re­dun­dancy be­cause ev­ery­one now claimed to be a con­sul­tant.

Alex Krstic, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of ENC Con­sult­ing, agreed there had been an in­crease in the num­ber of con­sult­ing firms in re­cent years.

He said it was not un­com­mon for re­source em­ploy­ers to hire in­house con­sul­tants to im­me­di­ately re­place one-third to a half of all pro­fes­sional em­ploy­ees they had made re­dun­dant.

That was partly to avoid pay­ing sick, hol­i­day and re­dun­dancy pay.

“The switch to a con­sul­tant­based model is chal­leng­ing the tra­di­tional em­ploy­ment model and is here to stay,” Mr Krstic said.

“A client re­cently had to re­struc­ture due to cost over­runs, so they let go 11 staff.

“They came to us and said, we need to to re­place them with four or five con­sul­tants im­me­di­ately.”

Hays Con­sult­ing na­tional min­ing di­rec­tor Chris Kent said the rise of the con­sul­tant and short-term con­tracts was a re­turn to a more reg­u­lar mar­ket.

He said dur­ing the boom about 75 per cent of Hays’ place­ments were for short-term con­tracts or con­sul­tants, as em­ploy­ers sought to com­bat the skills short­age.

The post-boom fig­ure had in­creased to 95 per cent.

Mr Kent crit­i­cised a fore­cast by Na­tional Aus­tralia Bank that an­other 50,000 re­source sec­tor jobs would be shed in the next 21⁄2 years, most of them from WA.

He ex­pected the min­ing jobs mar­ket to sta­bilise, claim­ing gold and lithium were still prov­ing good em­ploy­ers.

The iron ore mar­ket ap­peared to have sta­bilised and min­eral ex­plo­ration had en­joyed a resur­gence, he said.

New fig­ures show the num­ber of full-time jobs in min­er­als ex­plo­ration more than dou­bled from 966 in Jan­uary to 1952 po­si­tions in March.

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