Consulting firms fill mine vacancies
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.