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How to get a job in the mining industry

How to get a job in the mining industry

By Cara Jenkin

Thousands of jobs are reportedly up for grabs in the state's resources boom but how to go about getting one eludes many workers.

Industry leaders advise there is no simple answer but it will take time and some effort to get there.

They say most of the jobs are not with the major mining companies but contractors and supply firms.

It also means not all mining jobs will require workers to live in rural areas.

But with most mines located outside the metropolitan area, and in particular BHP Billiton preferring most of its workforce to be based near its Olympic Dam mine at Roxby Downs, many employment opportunities will be in regional areas.

Resources and Engineering Skills Alliance chief executive Phil de Courcey says workers first need the right attitude as many mining operations require workers to work in risky environments and adhere to strict drug and alcohol-free policies along with other occupational health and safety criteria.

"There's not a big demand for people in the industry that you can just turn up at a mining company and get a job. They are looking for people with that culture and experience,'' he says.

"There's no doorway you can go and just open and get a job. It can be a bit of a process.

"It does require a bit of research.'' He says job hunters must talk to people in the industry about what is required and research away from the internet.

South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy chief executive Jason Kuchel urges many workers to study to some extent, to hone the skills they need and be more attractive prospects to have more success at landing work.

"Just because someone is driving B-double trucks doesn't mean they have got the skills to drive a mining truck,'' he says.

"It doesn't mean they can't but it means they have to do some training or retrain themselves for that type of role.''

He says workers, including school students, have time to study from scratch and not enter the mining workforce for several years as they can be employed in operation phases of mines.

Resources executive recruiters WPM Consulting managing director Ben Wilson says workers at the top of their fields need to be well connected and involved in networks and industry associations and bodies to have the best chance of securing work.

"There are limited opportunities at the moment because the state's industry is largely in exploration mode and will need skilled workers for operational mode,'' he says.

"So staff will have to consider going elsewhere, either interstate or overseas, for a couple of years to get operational experience.''

But there still can be opportunities for executives not already in the mining or oil and gas sector if they are willing to work their way into the field.

Smaller companies, in particular, may need to consider workers with corporate governance skills to transition into the sector.

"They may be coming out of industries like defence, with other industry skills that aren't exactly what they want,'' Mr Wilson says.

"They wouldn't have (hired them) two years ago.

"There's going to be a massive skill shortage and there will be an opportunity for people to upskill in these types of areas.''

Mr de Courcey says job hunters can find industry-specific information on jobs and skill requirements through internet searches.

Workers also can enter their skills or qualifications into search engines at CareerOne.com.au to find jobs suitable to them.

Registered job hunters with Job Services Australia can get information about current vacancies, the skills mining employers want, which employers are hiring and cadet programs which can give workers skills while on the job.

Many mining and contractor companies can be approached direct but Mr de Courcey advises asking what skills or people they are looking for, rather than asking what jobs are available.

"For entry-level positions, it's not hard (for companies) to get applications,'' he says. "To differentiate yourself, you need to look at how you get the skills that are going to be beneficial to these companies.''

* STUDENTS

For those coming out of school, completing the right trade qualification or professional qualification is "absolutely critical'', SACOME chief executive Jason Kuchel says. "For uni students, when you get to the end of the first or second year of any degree, think about if it's really what you want to do and what the job opportunities will be,'' he says.

If the degree is not working out or will have limited opportunities, students may want to transfer into a mining-related course. Securing an apprenticeship should be the priority for those wanting to be involved in a trade mining job.

* ENTRY LEVEL

RESA chief executive Phil de Courcey says entry-level staff need to get a job for a small organisation or in a similar field before trying to break into a major mining company.

"Work for a civil construction organisation and get a ticket to work a front-end loader or a heavy rigid licence,'' he says.

Armed with experience and relevant machinery tickets, entry level workers will be more employable.

* TRADES

Qualified tradespeople can apply for positions with major companies as well as contractors and supply firms.

Approach human resource professionals and companies and ask what skills and qualities they look for in staff and be able to tick all the boxes before applying.

* PROFESSIONAL

Workers looking to change jobs must consider upskilling, including returning to TAFE and university, to make their skills more valuable. SACOME chief executive Jason Kuchel says updating knowledge so skills are relevant to the mining sector can be useful to be employed.

* EXECUTIVE

WPM Consulting managing director Ben Wilson says many executives will need to work in the mining industry to secure other mining work. He says often they will have to relocate interstate or overseas to get the required skills so they can return to SA

Article from The Advertiser, May 2011.

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