Before the Australian mining boom went bust and its Federal and State governments had forward spent on a continuation of the good times, the New Zealand mining and petroleum sectors were raided by headhunters and Australian companies luring its skilled workforces and graduating students.
The Australian boom really went bust which saw West Perth and other mining hubs vacated and many of the Kiwis, retrenched or facing lower wages in the more sobering times, either returning home or going to more stable employment fields elsewhere.
The Australian job magnet was so strong, and wages and conditions offered drained New Zealand of many of its skilled and professional workforce and scholarships became a lure for senior students.
The leading Australian mining website MiningBusinessMedia (MBM) said that after a six-year investment downturn, Australian industry leaders are having to brace themselves for one of the most destructive elements of the usual boom-bust cycle – skill shortages.
MBM said the resources sector in Australia delivers export revenue of over $A200 billion per annum, greater than all other industries combined. Its workers are the best paid of any industry in the nation on an annual average of about $A140,000.
“After several months of patchy improvements, the recovery is gathering pace,” the website said.
“The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the trend estimate in total mineral exploration rose 4.9% to $A498.5 million in the March quarter and the seasonally adjusted estimate of actual exploration expenditure rose 11% to $A516.7 M.
“In terms of employment opportunities, national online recruitment service SEEK’s review of advertised job vacancies for April revealed that the mining, resources and energy sector has led the improvement in workforce opportunities with total growth of 62% increase compared to 12 months ago.
MBM said despite the wealth of opportunities for six-figure incomes, the high salaries and bright long-term prospects are not attracting the talent the sector will need.
Dr Gavin Lind of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) told ABC Radio that the number of mining engineering graduates in the country has fallen drastically from nearly 300 a year during the mining investment boom of the 1990s and early 2000s to around 200 this year.
On current trends, the total of graduates could fall to around 50 a year over the next four years.
The decline in enrolments was traceable to 2012, when commodity prices particularly for iron ore and coal began to decline, but had not recovered as conditions and confidence in the sector returned. MBM said the number of students studying in Australian mining schools to become metallurgists, geologists and surveyors was going the same way.
Professor Sam Spearing, director of the WA School of Mines, supported the MCA's call for the Australian Government to do more to attract students to the mining industry.
Prof Spearing told the ABC other career pathways including potential post-graduate studies for civil or mechanical engineering graduates must be offered as part of a coordinated national approach by Government, industry and the tertiary educational sector.
Sources: miningbusiness.net; nzresources.com