Hays cautious on mining's threat to transport skills

By: Rob McKay

That industry coming off a low base James says after Komatsu recruitment call

Hays cautious on mining's threat to transport skills
Tim James


Recruitment firm Hays has words of some solace to transport-focused companies fearing the loss of skilled workers to the mines again – we aren’t there yet.

Asked about the challenge mining and infrastructure machinery firm Komatsu yesterday offered to freight firms and their suppliers after nominating them as sources to fill its own recruitment needs, Hays Logistics MD Tim James tells ATN actual mining and resources boom times have yet to resurface.

"If there is a positive re-emergence of the resources and mining sector, it will have an impact on many sectors, as it did last time," James says, noting that infrastructure is also a busy industry at present that is putting pressure on skills.

"If the resources and mining sector does bounce back positively, overall that’s very good for Australia and the Australian economy but, ultimately it creates skills pressures for numerous industries, including logistics and transport.

"I think there is pressure on skills in this country already in that sector."

Read about Komatsu’s planned raid on transport technicians, here

That said, though there has been a lift in mining-related recruitment, James is leery even of describing that sector as being "resurgent".

"It’s definitely in an upward cycle," he says, noting that how far forward it is in the cycle remains unclear.

"I don’t think we can sit here and say we are in a mining boom or the mining boom is around the corner."

But he does point to mining’s boom-bust behaviour as having once again led it and related companies to experience skills shortages, while meories of high wages remain fresh.

"The problem with that is they have created and expectation on skills that, if [such workers] are going to move to such places, that’s what they want to be paid," he says.

However, another indication that serious heat is yet to be injected into mining is the reluctance of companies there to offer the sort of salary and conditions that famously marked the recent boom.

"If anything, they’ve stood firm on that," James says, suggesting difficulty controlling cost loads during the downturn may have stung.

In response, though Hays has sought to fill vacancies and advised a loosening of the policy, companies resisted that in the quarter of the year just passed, often leaving the relevant post unfilled.

The question he poses is "can they stay firm with that position and will they"?

The key is "longevity".

"No organisation is going to return to or even get close to that level of remuneration or benefit, unless they’ve got some security in terms of project lifecycle," James says.


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