Australia has long been a global powerhouse in the mining and engineering sectors, contributing significantly to the nation's economic prosperity. However, in recent years, the industry has faced a growing challenge – a shortage of skilled professionals.
This shortage has been a roadblock for many companies, hindering their ability to meet the increasing demands of the sector. I aim to explore the causes of these shortages and the innovative solutions that could help industry leaders.
One major factor contributing to the shortage is the aging workforce in the mining and engineering sectors. As experienced professionals retire, there is a noticeable gap in skilled workers to move the industry forward.
Additionally, the decline in the number of students pursuing degrees in these fields has further exacerbated the problem. This was highlighted in a McKinsey article from 2023, which found that graduates in Australia and the USA have fallen by 39% and 63%, respectively, since 2010.
The article also highlighted that the attitude towards attracting and nurturing talent is not a high enough priority.
“....they spend enormous time, focus, and energy on optimising production by 2 percent, while talent topics rarely get the same level of urgency, except in a crisis.”
The most significant recommendation on this issue is to treat talent as a strategic pillar alongside safety, production, planning, and cost. Only by valuing its outcome will companies reap the benefits of a targeted and long-term talent and recruitment strategy.
To tackle this issue, more needs to be invested by industry leaders and actively engage in collaborative efforts with educational institutions to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. By fostering early interest in these fields and providing scholarship programs, companies must aim to attract and nurture the next generation of mining and engineering professionals.
To highlight this, the Australian Bureau Of Statistics data has shown that mining job vacancies have almost doubled since 2020, a concerning trend. This, coupled with an estimate that the industry will need to find an extra 24,400 workers by 2026.
Being an international leader in mining, resources, and engineering requires the industry to attract talent from around the globe. A report produced by Engineers Australia highlights that overseas-born engineers contributed 70% of the growth in the engineering workforce, and that the majority of Australia’s engineers are born overseas.
In response to the shortage, companies should also invest in upskilling and reskilling programs for existing employees. Recognising the need for a diverse skill set in the rapidly evolving technological landscape, organisations need to understand the value of partnering with training providers to equip their workforce with the latest knowledge and tools. This not only addresses the immediate shortage but also ensures that the industry remains competitive and adaptive to emerging technologies.
Furthermore, industry leaders need to embrace technological advancements to enhance efficiency and productivity. Automation, artificial intelligence, and remote monitoring are being integrated into mining and engineering processes to streamline operations and reduce dependence on a large workforce. This not only mitigates the impact of the shortage but also positions Australia as a leader in innovative mining and engineering practices.
In conclusion, the shortage of skilled professionals in Australian mining and engineering is a multifaceted challenge that requires a collaborative and innovative approach. By investing in education, upskilling programs, and embracing technology, industry leaders can actively work towards building a resilient workforce and ensuring the sustained success of these crucial sectors in the Australian economy.