The mining sector needs to broaden its appeal and work more collaboratively to attract the best and brightest to its ranks, says Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy chief executive Stephen Durkin.
Mr Durkin was speaking after data revealed job vacancies in the WA mining sector had risen 1.4 per cent last month.
The DFP Mining and Resources Job Index figures, along with Seek data, which showed a 5.8 per cent jump in mining and resource job advertisements in April, point to a looming skills shortage in the sector.
Mr Durkin — who heads AusIMM, which represents 13,000 members including 3000 mining professionals in WA — said the sector needed to broaden the type of people it was attracting, noting that robotics, automation, artificial intelligence and data analytics would play an increasing role in the mines of the future.
“They’re some of the areas where we see a lot of growth, a lot of opportunities for professionally qualified people to move into,” he said.
“We need to get their thinking switched on to the mining sector being a good industry in which to work, in terms of prospects, in terms of the work involved and the contribution to the economy.”
Mr Durkin said the financial services industry had become skilled at identifying smart and talented people from a broad variety of disciplines and using their skills and experience within their organisations.
For instance, the industry needed to appeal to young people who loved technology and get them excited about working in a team running a mining operation remotely.
Mr Durkin said mining companies were typically very competitive but they needed to collaborate more to turn around negative perceptions of the industry.
He noted one in 12 Australians and one in seven West Australians worked in the mining sector, which represented 8.5 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product last year, almost double what it was 15 years ago.
“There would not be many countries that have an industry so important to their national prosperity that is as maligned as our mining industry in Australia,” Mr Durkin said.
“There’s some very good people that work in this industry, that are ethical, they’re well qualified, they’re well intentioned, they’re interested in delivering community outcomes.
“I think the tone of the industry has been brought down by a few colourful characters out there and we’re playing our part to make sure we identify those people and get them out of our industry. But, by and large, there’s some really good people doing really good stuff and we want to tell that story.”
Mr Durkin noted 17 per cent of workers in the mining sector were professionals compared with 10 per cent in manufacturing and 3.5 per cent in construction.
“So we need smart, qualified professionals to shape the future of the industry,” he said.