Greenies turn off mining’s Gen Next
Attacks by green activists on the resources industry are turning millennials off mining jobs, sparking warnings the industry will face some of the toughest recruitment conditions in 20 years unless it confronts the problem.
The Minerals Council of Australia has called an education summit for later this year which will bring together industry, universities and the government to grapple with the issue.
MCA interim chief executive David Byers said: “It’s unfortunate that sustained attacks from misinformed activists have dissuaded some young people from looking at a career in mining.”
Expected enrolments in mining engineering have almost halved in the past 12 months and are projected to halve again by the end of the decade. MCA figures suggest mining engineering enrolments have dropped from 171 last year to 98 this year and are on track to fall to 69 next year and 47 in 2020.
It comes as an anti-coal charity is being investigated after its chief executive was videoed urging protesters to “get arrested”.
The education summit, scheduled for May in Melbourne, comes as a review of the industry’s tertiary education organisations warns it faces “similar challenges in securing domestic professionals” as in the 1998 skills shortage. “Aside from the economic driver of commodity prices on enrolments, there are new challenges,’’ the review of Mining Education Australia and the Minerals Tertiary Education Council found. These included “a growing antimining perception among millennials coupled with their values-based decision making’’.
Jelena Ceranic, however, has no such misgivings. A paid engineering internship represents the fulfilment of a longheld dream for the 20-year-old, who was awarded the 2017 MCA, BHP women in engineering scholarship. She has been working as a fly-in-fly-out trainee at
BHP’s Eastern Ridge iron ore mine at Newman in Western Australia’s Pilbara, making it back to Perth for weekends.
Jelena, a fourth-year civil engineering student at Curtin University, said: “You can make a big change in the world with engineering.’’
She said she was not affected by attacks on the mining industry at all because it was a “positive key driver of Australia’s economy and this will continue’’. Enrolments might have dropped off, Jelena suggested, because of the end of the mining boom. “People are just following the crowd, but I don’t feel like mining is dropping off here.’’
And she is right. Despite the dramatic fall in interest from students, figures published by the recruiter SEEK show job advertisements in mining, resources and energy grew 54 per cent in the past 12 months. And job ads in the mining engineering and maintenance categories rose 84.3 per cent between January and November.
SEEK chief commercial officer Kendra Banks said that mining, energy and resources job ads were growing faster than in any other sector. All states and territories had experienced the growth. The most opportunities were in Western Australia, which currently has more than 1500 roles advertised — annual growth of 32 per cent.
“Queensland offers the second greatest number of job opportunities across mining, energy and resources on SEEK, with opportunities growing by 73 per cent over the past 12 months to December 2017,” Ms Banks said.
SEEK’s research indicates that job security in mining has increased to the second most important spot in terms of what attracts candidates to a role or company in the industry. Jobs with the strongest growth included drilling and blasting.
Industry research shows that first-year enrolments at university in mining-related disciplines tend to track commodity prices. They peaked for mining engineering in 2012 and 2013, about a year after the iron ore price peaked.
Jelena is outnumbered about nine-to-one by males in the ranks of engineering students, but she says: “I honestly forget that I’m female up there. If you do a job, at the end of the day you’re going to be respected by everyone and you are not going to get put in a box by your gender.’’
The MCA’s David Byers said: “The industry is working hard with others to encourage more young people to take up engineering and other mining courses to meet the needs of the workforce of tomorrow.’’