It’s a great time of year! The sun is out, the birds are chirping, and the phones are ringing………In my line of work, the steady thrum of the phones in January augers well for a solid year ahead for the Australian resources industry.
As a recruitment business, there is a pretty strong correlation between how well the industry is going and how often clients (operators, contractors, service providers) are getting in touch without our prompting. If our clients are calling, it means they’re looking for people. If they’re looking for people, then they’ve got work on and if they’ve got work on…. then we’re all back in the game. Sounds simple but if my last 20 years is anything to go by, you can set your watch by it.
So, let’s look at it in a bit more depth and see what’s driving a turn-around that seems to have been on the cards for the last 12 to 18 months but appears to have gotten some serious legs over the last 6.
To start with and to put it quite simply there’s more money to be made. It’s costing us less to get the good stuff out of the ground, onto a ship and out to our customers. With a weaker Aussie dollar, an increase in commodity prices, companies running leaner and more efficiently (after a tight few years) and an ever-increasing appetite for our resources globally, the industry has become economically viable again, particularly for the mid-tier miners, not to mention for the associated contractors and service providers.
We are also seeing long-term investment in projects spanning longer durations with confidence that the industry will achieve and maintain higher commodity prices across a number of years. This expected consistency is driven predominantly with the evening out of the unprecedented growth seen in China over a decade ago. With this plateauing we now have a more predictable, less volatile and a more easily measurable level of growth which we can factor as a consistent base plus additional growth.
The natural progression from a market more conducive to profit is the likelihood that the banks will start lending and the investors will start spending and we’ve certainly seen some positive trends in lending and investment. Whilst there has been a moderate increase year on year since 2016, analysts suggest we’ve seen a significant spike in the last 6 to 12 months with solid investment in exploration across iron ore, coal (both coking and thermal), gold, nickel, copper, lead/zinc and uranium, with gold accounting for almost half of the total exploration expenditure.
The cost reduction trend we saw year on year from 2013 to 2018 has now well and truly swung with a 2018 Newport Consulting report stating that only four percent of surveyed Australian miners are looking to reduce costs this year.
So, let’s end where we began and look at the employment landscape over the next 12 months. Since the industry bottomed out in 2014 to today, we have seen a massive swing in the number of companies hiring with a recent federal government survey stating a 28% increase. If we take a look at the turn-around in jobs advertised across the most recognisable job board SEEK, the swing is even sharper with SEEK statistics indicating a startling 76% more jobs advertised from 2016 to the same period in 2018 and with new figures to be released the expectation this figure will be substantially larger still.
It’s all great news for the industry as a whole, but with exponential growth comes the traditional tightening of the skilled talent market. But that’s a whole other article. I would suggest in the meantime however that you find a skilled, trusted and connected recruiter. There’s a good chance you’re going to need them when the pinch comes, and come it will.