The mining industry has long had a reputation for paying big bucks and whilst that's certainly true to a degree for mining professionals, it's no longer the norm so much for low skilled positions. Many mining companies were badly burnt during the last boom when they had to enter into bidding wars that resulted in them paying out some excessive wages for relatively low skilled occupations. Not surprisingly it's made them pretty wary this time round so if you're expecting to be able to walk into a mining job with relatively few skills and start earning big money, you may need to think again! Mining companies are also wary of people with no mining experience or conception of what it's like to work in remote locations walking off the job too when they realise it's hard work. Finding replacements at the drop of a hat in the middle of nowhere is not easy!
With that in mind, let's debunk some of these perceptions about working in the mining industry.You'll Be Earning A Lot Of Money Regardless Of Your Experience (Or Lack Thereof)
'Earn big money for working on remote locations' is just one of several preconceived notions that people have about getting into the mining industry. Sure, if you get a job you probably will be working in a remote location and depending on where you are in the world, it may be hot, dusty, cold, wet, miserable and uncomfortable. And yes, you can expect to be recompensed to a degree for this but don't be disappointed if it's not to the extent you thought it would be, unless you happen to have skills that are very much in demand. We mentioned people walking off the job earlier. Therefore if you're unskilled or inexperienced and manage to land a mining job you can probably expect to be put through your paces to a degree in a job they can more readily fill should you decide suddenly the work, and the lifestyle, isn't for you.*Get 'All Those Tickets' Even With No Guarantee Of Getting A Mining Job
Getting all your mining tickets is something many recruitment agencies tend to recommend you do. However, one tip from those who have 'been there done that' is that it actually isn't particularly advisable to get 'all' those mining tickets without knowing whether or not you're going to be able to get a job in the industry*. They cost a lot of money and if you don't get a job, or get a job where you don't need half of them, it could end up being an expensive exercise in futility! Furthermore, even though they recommend you get them, don't expect recruitment agencies to be particularly interested in you just because you have 'all the tickets' if you don't also have the necessary industry or trade qualifications and experience to go with them.
Having said this though there are certain tickets that are mandatory in many countries for working on mine sites so be prepared to get those should you get a mining job, or if you're reasonably certain you'll get one. These will often include courses like a mining induction course, getting a Working At Heights ticket or similar, and so on. As for the others, discuss which ones are going to be most applicable with your new employer. There's not much point getting a Heavy Rigid licence or an Elevated Work Platform ticket for example if you're not going to need them.Getting A Mining Job Is A Cinch Even With No Experience Or Qualifications
Another perception about getting a job in the mining industry is that you don't need any qualifications or skills. Whilst this may have been true to an extent in previous booms, it isn't typically the case any longer. Irrespective of what you may read or hear! Most mining companies start their search for new employees with a very select set of criteria**. So select in fact that if you don't tick most of the boxes your resume probably won't even get past the first check point. They're looking for specialist skills, certain types of experience and even particular degrees or industry certifications. This is generally as true for tradespeople as it is for mining professionals. Gone are the days, if they even existed to begin with, when you could get yourself a heap of mine site relevant tickets in lieu of cold hard specialist training and experience, and expect to be able to pick up a mining job in a snap. AND be paid over the top into the bargain!
What Types Of Trades Are Typically Required In The Mining Industry?
Currently some of the most in-demand trades within mining are electricians, plumbers (gas and construction), mechanics, steel workers and construction trades. However, there is always a continuous demand for skilled trades people in the industry across a range of specialities. If you hold relevant industry or trade certification or experience in any of the following categories you're more likely to be of interest to mining companies:
- Automotive, Mechanical and Civil
- Infrastructure and Fixed Assets
- Plant Maintenance (fixed and/or mobile, surface and/or underground)
- Plumbing, Carpentering, Electrical, Instrumentation, Cleaning, Refrigeration, General Maintenance, Air Conditioning
If you also hold at least the mandatory licences and tickets needed to work on mine sites you will have a head start on those who don't. However, as per our suggestion above, don't go and spend the money on getting them if you aren't reasonably confident of getting a mining job.
Getting Into A Mining Job As A Tradie
Research. Work out where you'd like to work – country, state, mining company, mine site, commodity etc. Do you want to relocate or would you be happy with FIFO? We suggest making a short list of your preferred choices.
Find out what, if any, positions are available at those locations relevant to your experience and certifications. You can do this via mining job boards. Some companies also have a section on their websites where they advertise vacancies. What qualifications are required for those jobs? What tickets/medicals/health checks are you going to need? If you're considering working in another country, do you qualify for a visa to work there? Find out how you go about getting one and if the companies you're targeting can, or must by law, help you get one. Most countries with a strong mining sector allow mining companies to bring in appropriately skilled foreign workers during times of shortages.
Doing your research can also help you identify potential jobs coming up before companies start advertising for trades people. For example, a mining project may be moving into production shortly and will require trades people for all sorts of work from setting up the support infrastructure to maintaining equipment to operational roles. Submit your resume directly to the company and express interest in being contacted for roles relevant to your experience and qualifications. Ditto if you're applying for entry level or unskilled positions.
Update your resume. When describing your skills and experience make sure they're slanted towards how these can be of benefit to the mining industry and particularly your employers of choice. Explain clearly how your current skills can be transferred to a mining environment. If need be consider getting a specialist resume writer to revamp it; you may be surprised at the difference this makes to your chances of landing a job.
Network. Find out whose attention you need to attract within these companies to get your foot in the door. Talk to people. The old adage "it's who you know" still holds true so the more people you know, the more chance you have of talking to someone who has the connections to get you in. Follow up on leads. Be prepared to make phone calls to connections of connections of connections. Be patient but persistent.
Apply directly for advertised positions within companies. This is where the importance of a good resume comes into play. It will get you past the first stage and potentially lead to an interview. Brush up on your interview skills – there is plenty of advice about how to do this and we plan to cover the topic ourselves at some point too.
Register with a recruitment agency that specialises in placing tradespeople in mining positions. However, as we've previously mentioned, don't expect them to be of great assistance to you if you don't have experience and qualifications. Whilst the number of trade positions not requiring mining experience on job boards is beginning to increase, the key phrase here is 'mining experience'. It doesn't automatically follow that they're looking for people without any experience at all. On the other hand, we're also beginning to see an increase in the number of entry-level jobs (trainee) being advertised too. Currently there are generally good numbers of applicants for these jobs though so if you're looking for one of these, be prepared to go down the networking path as well to get a head start on your competition.
Bottom line – business is picking up for qualified trades people looking to get into the mining industry. However, be aware that mining companies this time round may not be prepared to pay the exorbitant wages and salaries they did in the past. You can also get a head start on your competition by doing your research before applying, finding out where the most suitable jobs for your qualifications and experience are (or are going to be), networking, talking to people who have the right connections to help you, getting your resume up to scratch, knowing what tickets you'll need and so on.