Australian mining jobs sector still growing, but new skills needed, report finds

Australia's mining boom may be over, but research suggests that job growth won't be a phenomenon of the past. The real challenge, according to a new report by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA), will be training the workforce for a new set of skills.

The report predicts that employment in the mining sector will rise by 7.4% over the next four years, with the oil and gas sector providing the largest number of new jobs.

But the new set of positions will require a new set of skills.

Demand will be particularly high for production managers and a number of trade occupations such as metal fitters and machinists, structural steel and welding trades workers and other building and engineering technicians.

"While required skills may be ‘bought in’ from other industries, a new response is needed from employers to meet the ongoing challenge of recruiting and retaining these specialist workers," the AWPA writes.

As the industry shifts toward more automation, workers will also need specialized skills in remotely controlled and automated systems. Although demand for drill rig operators and truck drivers will decline, the move toward automation isn't expected to significantly reduce employee numbers.

To prepare for this new employment landscape, the AWPA advises industry stakeholders and the tertiary education sector to "collaborate on a workforce development strategy to build a domestic workforce to meet future skills demand for resources operations."

This involves an emphasis on maths, technology, science and engineering skills, through the establishment of a national strategy for schools.

"With a long lead time required to develop critical skills for the sector’s future, especially in oil and gas, it is clear industry, government, and education and training providers need to collaborate and plan now to develop the workforce the industry will need in the years to 2018.," the AWPA writes.