Written by subcommittee member Emily Coates, Consultant, Cannings Purple.

With major petroleum and metals projects announced recently, and the gold sector ramping up exports to more than $20 billion worth in 2018, the Australian mining industry could be heading towards a healthy stage of growth, however there remains the need for skilled workers.

The Federal Government’s Resources 2030 TaskForce report found that demand is on the rise in the industry for mining engineers, geologists and drillers. Furthermore, the industry’s advancement towards automation, robotics and artificial intelligence has sparked a suite of new roles necessary to manage and analyse that data, and the need for those roles will only increase as new technologies become commonplace.

Despite this, applications for mining engineering courses across Australia fell dramatically by 88 per cent between 2013 and 2018, with total mining enrolments dropping from 265 students to just 32. Additionally, the Resources 2030 Taskforce report found an increasing disparity between the technical and digital skills needed in the next generation of mining industry graduates, and those being delivered through Australia’s higher education.

The mining industry’s future will rely on an efficient, skilled and suitably sized workforce - and focus is shifting to the next generation of workers to rise to that challenge.

‘Generation Z’, generally defined as those born between 1995 and 2012, will be the next wave of workers with the oldest turning 24 this year. While the youngest of this group still have the final years of their schooling to complete, it is estimated that by 2030, 75 per cent of the workforce will comprise of this cohort.

Here’s how we could tap into the next generation.

Refine the recruitment process

With the introduction of online capability testing and self-recorded interviews, the recruitment process is increasingly becoming a wholly online experience. This is particularly evident in the mining industry, with positions often drawing applications from across the nation.

Generation Z are truly digital natives. Clunky online applications have the potential to turn off these job seekers before you have the chance to interview them. For a competitive edge, companies must ensure their online recruitment processes are efficient, sophisticated and hassle-free.

Match the brand

According to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, a brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room. If your walk doesn’t match your talk, your employees will be the first to notice, and research is showing that potential recruits pay a lot of attention to the opinions of current and former employees.

A 2016 survey from Glassdoor found 77 per cent of job seekers take into account company reviews when making career moves, with the majority of candidates reading an average of six reviews before forming an opinion on a company.

Generation Z will be scouring the web for these reviews, so ensure processes, policies and procedures on the ground reflect what you say at a corporate level to help manage internal perceptions of the workplace.

Maintain strong social and environmental initiatives

Mining companies shouldn’t dismiss Generation Z’s attitudes on social issues, as 93 per cent of this group say that a company’s impact on society would affect their decision to work there.

Generation Z want to work somewhere where they can contribute long-term in a meaningful way. They also find a company’s diversity important, with 77 per cent saying it would be a deciding factor in their decision to work at any given company.

While the mining industry keeps community, diversity and environmental initiatives front of mind, it’s important to note that those who perform strongly in this space will attract the majority of the next generation of workers and incentivise them to stay for the long-term.

Create attractive, long-term career options

Growing up in the midst of a recession and witnessing the increasing instances of automated job roles, Generation Z isn’t likely to partake in the career hopping behaviour of millennials. Instead, they will be seeking stable but fluid places of work, with 75 per cent indicating their interest in opportunities for multiple roles at a single place of employment.

To create the future-proof careers that the next generation are seeking, companies should create opportunities which support career paths and give employees easier flexibility to move within and across the organisation.

Integrate learning opportunities

The continued success of Australia’s mining industry will rely on companies’ abilities to adopt, integrate and leverage new innovations and technologies.

With the majority of Generation Z interested in job stability, it is safe to assume that these tech-savvy workers understand the importance of continuous learning to meet the changing needs of industry.

Companies who integrate learning opportunities across their organisation will not only ensure their employees are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to work efficiently and dynamically in their roles, but will also help to retain a workforce which values job stability and flexibility.