Is making fast, big bucks in the mines just a myth?


Advice on how to get into the mining industry

IS it a genuine get-rich-quick strategy or an urban myth? For a decade now, people across Australia - especially in the urban centres - have been hearing stories about workers with zero experience getting jobs at the mines and making a fortune.

A quick Google search shows advertisements for mining jobs with no experience required, although a few more clicks on the mouse often lead nowhere.

To what extent is it true that the average Joe, with no experience, can get a big-paying job at the mines?

Hays senior regional director Simon Bristow agreed the idea was more myth than reality, saying good jobs at mines didn't come without a solid professional background.

Hays is a recruiting giant, placing skilled workers in a variety of industries, including mining.

While Mr Bristow said it was wrong to think just anyone could walk into highly-paid job at the mines, he agreed that didn't necessarily mean there were no opportunities for people trying to benefit from jobs around mining.

"I think there is some truth in it, in that if you are prepared to move to the Bowen Basin, for example, you will get a job," he said.

What Mr Bristow means is don't just look at the mines themselves - look at all the opportunities in mining communities, since mines drive economic activity in their local area.

But when it comes to the jobs on big cash in the mines, Mr Bristow said experience was the key.

"Most mining companies are going to look for two years' experience," he said

But workers without experience on a mine site can still get a foot in the door in lower positions, if they have transferable skills from another industry - civil construction being one example.

I think there is some truth in it, in that if you are prepared to move to the Bowen Basin, for example, you will get a job

The emphasis on transferable skills is shared by Get a Mining Job co-founder Myles Walder, who said although there was no quick way to get a highly paid job at a mine, skills from other industries could be utilised.

Mr Walder and a couple of friends in the mining industry launched the Get a Mining Job website to provide information and advice for people trying to get into the industry.

The website is a free service and its founders run it as volunteers, while working their day jobs at the mines.

Mr Walder is a safety training provider.

He said there were ways of gradually getting started in the industry, but the new Aussie dream of leaving the suburbs and walking straight into a $150K-a-year job without experience was unrealistic.

"It depends what you want to do (at the mines)," he said.

"The biggest part of the myth is that people think you can just go out and get a great job (instantly)."

Mr Walder said there were "unskilled" jobs at the mines, but when he talked about unskilled opportunities, there was still an emphasis on having proven oneself in other fields, such as construction, operation or heavy vehicles.

The classic mining job for a worker with construction experience is to become a tradies' assistant.

"There is a lot of work for people with experience in labour-intensive backgrounds, such as (job opportunities in) drilling and others like that," he said.

Mr Walder knows as well as anyone that the dream job in mining will not come instantly. He started at the bottom in the drilling industry, after a career as a qualified plasterer.

Some people in the suburbs seem to believe any qualified tradesman can walk into a highly-paid job at the mines, but Mr Walder worked for about $70,000 when he started - which didn't happen overnight.


Biloela engineer Heather Parry has won the 2011 Queensland Resources Council Resources Award for Women.
Biloela engineer Heather Parry has won the 2011 Queensland Resources Council Resources Award for Women.

Advice on how to get into the mining industry

HE had some basic advice for inexperienced job-seekers trying to get into the mines.

First of all, don't just apply for everything. Try to pick a specific field and work towards breaking into that field. Do not simply apply for every mining job under the sun.

Mr Walder said by forming a specific focus, job-hunters would gradually learn more about the requirements of that area and could improve their chances as they continued with new efforts.

He said getting a start in the mines was like using a jackhammer to punch a hole through a concrete wall - if you apply the jackhammer all over the wall, you won't make much progress.

But if you apply the jackhammer continuously in one spot, you will eventually make a hole.

Mr Bristow said when people were trying to get a job in the mines, they should think carefully about which type of job was best for them.

He said there was an image in most people's minds of a job surrounded by coal dust at the bottom of a pit - but he said there were all sorts of professions needed in mines and in the communities surrounding them.

Again, looking at your own experience allows you to connect your transferable skills to a job. Around mines, there are job vacancies in cleaning, hospitality, admin, accounting ... the list goes on.

Mr Walder's final piece of advice is as much about life as it is about mining.

He said although many people wanted to break in to the industry for the money, their dreams were destined for failure unless they thought carefully about their families and social lives.

He said it could be a lonely world in the mine fields - and sometimes big money didn't make up the difference.

Topics:  editors picks employment jobs mining resources

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