Much of the feedback on this blog, and on other resources forums, is from frustrated job seekers finding it hard to get into the sector despite all the talk about skills shortages.

And it would be frustrating. Not a day goes by when somewhere in the Aussie media a company is warning that its resources projects are at risk if they can’t access the skills they need. So, a job seeker in this environment is understandably confused if they’re still finding it tough to get a job in resources.

With mining projects already underway and plans to expand operations, mining companies are primarily in need of established miners that can hit the ground running and get the job done. And this immediate demand for people with experience shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Workers with experience are ready to start work as soon as they get on-site. They’re accustomed to the FIFO lifestyle; they’re savvy on OH&S issues and protocols; they’re familiar with the ebb and flow of the resources sector.

Not only that, but these factors also point to an overarching commitment to the resources sector. Resources companies are much more likely to invest in training and development for workers they know are committed and intend to stay in the industry for a prolonged period. Why? They’re less of a flight risk.

Having said all that, there is definitely room for ‘clean skins’ (Job seekers with no previous experience on a mine). A shrinking pool of experienced workers will see many companies increasingly widen their talent pool to include workers from other industries with similar skills sets (like refugees from the manufacturing sector) or even capable and willing unskilled workers who can be trained up quickly.

For example, last month BHP Billiton said it would take applications from “anyone willing to work”, saying the company had 750 vacancies in its Queensland operations, and 600 vacancies in iron ore operations in Western Australia.

The trick for genuine job seekers interested in the resources sector is to know where to look for opportunities. At the moment, many recruitment and employment services companies are being used by resources companies to search for experienced workers, because they’re the hardest to find right now. So, as a clean skin, recruitment companies may not be the best place to start your search.

Here are a few things you can do to start opening your own doors:

  1. Know what you’re in for. The resources sector is not for everyone: FIFO rosters and long shifts are tough. In fact, the lifestyle results in 50 per cent of new recruits leaving the industry. Do some research and get to know other people working in the resources sector to determine if it’s something you truly want to pursue, and are prepared to commit to. Resources companies are getting pretty good at sniffing out job applicants jumping on the resources bandwagon purely for the money.
  2. Be proactive. Try going straight to the source by checking resource company’s websites, or calling their HR department. Often companies run information sessions, and open days on site for new comers. This will give you a feel for the lifestyle and culture on the mine, and allow you to talk to people who have experienced it.
  3. The devil is in the detail. Getting the qualifications you need to enter the sector will take time and money. Make sure you’re aware of all the investments you have to make before you’re actually able to start work.
  4. Be prepared to start at the bottom. Job seekers need to be realistic about the positions they can get, be ready to start out as a trainee or an apprentice and to be earning a wage that reflects that role.