Mines push to hire more foreign workers
MINING giants want to recruit more foreign workers, claiming a crippling shortage of local engineers.
Only 70 new mining engineers will graduate from Australian universities next year - a quarter of the number during the mining boom in 2014.
New enrolments for mining engineer degrees have crashed to one-tenth of the level in 2012, despite miners paying six-figure salaries to fresh graduates.
The Minerals Council of Australia has warned the federal government it cannot find enough local engineers to do the job, as the industry fires up on the back of rising commodity prices.
"Mining engineering has fallen off a cliff,'' Minerals Council director of education and training Gavin Lind told The Courier-Mail yesterday.
"(Students) are missing the greatest opportunity of all - the best time to get involved in the industry is when there's a lull.
"The industry needs 200 new mining engineers each year but there were only 107 graduates this year.''
Mr Lind said only 34 students had enrolled in first-year mining engineering degrees this year, with just 11 in Queensland.
The Minerals Council is lobbying the federal government to relax restrictions on hiring foreign engineers - and to raise the 45-year age limit.
It wants the government to place mining engineering on the short-term skilled occupations list, which lets miners recruit directly from overseas.
And it is pushing to abolish labour market testing, which checks that no local engineers are available to work.
"As opportunities across the minerals industry continue to grow, an additional 900 mining engineers are expected to be employed domestically up to 2022,'' the Minerals Council has told a Senate inquiry into skilled visas.
"Given the current and projected pipeline of enrolments and graduates in mining engineering and related disciplines, access to skilled migrants is critical to respond to the immediate divide between supply and demand over the next 12 months.
"Delays in recruiting critical workers on temporary visas will not only impact overall competitiveness, it will also delay developments and the creation of permanent positions for Australians.''
A Department of Home Affairs spokesman said mining engineers were on the medium to long-term strategic skills list, which requires a state government to sponsor the worker.
The spokesman said the federal government would consider recommendations from the Senate inquiry after it reports next March.
A University of Queensland spokesman said that the number of students enrolled in mining and geotechnical majors had dropped from 93 in 2017 to 73 this year.
"Currently, there is a decline in students studying mining engineering and mining and geotechnical engineering majors, which is a trend across the sector,'' he said.
"As the industry evolves, we're seeing graduates with backgrounds in mechatronic, software, mechanical, electrical and civil engineering in demand for jobs in the resources sector.''