Resources employers pay up big

WORKING in Australia’s booming mining and resources sectors is becoming even more lucrative after a survey has revealed employees in the sector can expect the highest salary increase of all industries this year.
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Recruiting group Hays' latest salary guide was based on 1500 employers, revealing recruiting trends across Australia and New Zealand.

The survey revealed 55% of mining and resources employers increased salaries in 2011 between 3% and 6%, with a further 20% being extra generous allocating a wage increase of more than 6%.

However 19% of employers gave increases below 3%, while the final 6% gave no pay increases.

The increases are above the average for all industries, where 46% of employers increased salaries last year between 3% and 6%.

Looking ahead, 55% of mining and resources employers say they plan to up salaries between 3% and 6% when they next review, while a further 15% will make an increase above 6%.

Again this is above the average for all industries, where the general consensus is to give a pay rise between 3% and 6%.

Hays resources and mining senior regional director Simon Winfield said recruitment in the mining and resources sector was full of activity right now.

"To say the booming resources and mining sector is the highlight of Australia's recruitment market is an understatement," he said.

"Of course the greatest salary increases have been seen in Western Australia, most notably for mine managers, certain areas of occupational health and safety, geologists, engineers and in maintenance and production.

"But even in Western Australia this is not a universal trend and some companies are relying on the quality of their benefits, rosters, camp accommodation or project strength to attract and retain staff."

Winfield said problems like the skills shortage could prove a boon for workers because employers were placing more emphasis on retaining staff.

"Retention is an increasingly important priority and benefits are rising as a result," Winfield said.

"They include health insurance, novated car leases, share options, income protection, flexible super contributions, long service leave and even time rosters."

Moving over to the eastern states, Winfield said the gap was closing between Queensland and Western Australia and there was a notable salary trend taking place in New South Wales.

Employers in NSW were also using the residential lifestyle to attract possible candidates.

In South Australia, Hays noted companies were increasing salaries but remained reluctant to compete with other mining states by matching salaries.

For some, the results of the survey may not be surprising, considering Australia is in the grips of a thriving resources boom but at the same time experiencing a critical skills shortage which is making specialist roles such as engineers and skilled trades incredibly difficult to find.

"New major projects as well as expansions and of course the ongoing skills shortage is fuelling a very active and fierce race for the top talent," Winfield said.

The survey found employers were acting quickly to reduce the impact of the skills shortage, with many companies turning to contract staff, interstate candidates or sponsorship to fill the skills gap.

"[Employers] are becoming more flexible in terms of experience and will provide training to get a candidate to the required level," Winfield said.

"At the trades level they will recruit candidates with heavy industrial experience and there has been an increase in graduate vacancies and apprenticeships."

With the skills shortage in full swing and with the resources boom taking place in parallel, a phrase has been coined to describe the unique talent needed.

Dubbed "orange collar", the term is derived from the fluorescent orange, high-visibility uniform commonly worn by employees in the industry.

According to Hays, orange collar workers are identified by their highly technical and specialist skills.

"They are likely to work in remote locations and are typified by their level of relevant training, adherence to compliance and long-term commitment to a project," Winfield said.

"The sheer number of mining projects in Australia will see employers continue to compete for orange collar candidates over the year ahead."

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