Young People and the Victorian Resources Sector research report
Young People and the Victorian Resources Sector research report
Victoria is a global mining hub, home to an array of industry leaders and peak bodies, as well as Australia’s largest mining conference. In 2016 / 2017, the Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) sector was valued at $13.6 billion and accounted for 121,000 jobs in Victoria.1 The mining industry’s continued operation throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted the sector’s resilience and role as a source of sustainable employment. Indeed, results from the AusIMM Professional Employment and Remuneration Survey show the sector continued to enjoy almost full employment throughout 2020, with unemployment amongst Australian resources professionals at close to half the national average.2 The outlook for resources today remains strong, with the Victorian Government continuing to deliver exploration, geoscience and ground release programs as it forefronts infrastructure and community projects in its program to rebuild the state’s economy.
As a significant employer in a growing industry that will help drive Victoria’s economic recovery, attracting young people into the Victorian resources industry is critical to ensure an ongoing supply of appropriately skilled workers and meet anticipated demand. This report presents a summary and analysis of findings from research and consultations carried out to understand youth perceptions of the resources industry in Victoria, including what attracts them to the industry and what can drive them away.
Key findings from research and consultation
- Victorian youth knowledge of careers in the resources industry is on par with the national average, however they have less interest working in the resources industry than their counterparts in other jurisdictions
- Career decisions of Victorian youth are primarily influenced by parents and teachers
- Environmental concerns are a significant barrier for Victorian youth entering the resources industry
- Victorian youth hold positive views about the resource industry's contribution to the national economy
- Perceptions of Victorian youth are positively impacted through an increased understanding of the mining lifestyle, site experience and environmental activities in the resources industry
Purpose of the paper
A strong talent pipeline is critical for the resources industry. Ensuring young Victorians appreciate the nature, range and diversity of career opportunities in the resources industry is imperative. This paper follows a national survey undertaken by Youth Insight into the views of young Australians towards the resources industry. The research found some divergences between the views held by young Victorians and their national peers. This paper explores those findings, their underlying factors, and implications for future industry and government initiatives aimed at fostering a strong resources talent pipeline.
The objectives of the report include:
- Understanding youth perceptions of the mining industry in Victoria;
- Identifying the key factors that influence the perspectives of Victorian youth towards the mining industry and the associations they ascribe to it; and
- Identifying push and pull factors influencing Victorian youth engagement in the resources industry, and in resources careers.
Key Research Findings
Findings in five key areas follow from the data gathered through Youth Insight’s national research.
2.1.1 Knowledge of the resources industry is on par with the national average, however, Victorian youth are less interested in working in the industry
Young people in Victoria self-report a limited understanding of what a career in the resources industry might entail. When asked to rate their knowledge of mining careers, 95% of Victorian respondents indicated they knew ‘a little bit’ or ‘nothing at all’. While substantial, this lack of knowledge is comparable to youth in other Australian states and territories. Figure 1 reports national findings, in which 94% of respondents indicated they knew only ‘a little bit’ or ‘nothing at all’ about mining careers. Knowledge of mining careers lacks across all Australian jurisdictions, not just Victoria.
Although Victorian youth have a similar self-reported knowledge of mining careers to their interstate peers, they reported less interest in working in the mining industry. As seen in Figure 2, the survey results found Victorian students perceive resources as being among the least interesting industries to work in, along with energy, agriculture and manufacturing. Taken together, Figures 1 and 2 suggest it may not be a lack of knowledge that prevents Victorian youth from entering the mining industry, but some other factors. It is, as such, important to consider what the research reveals about these other influences.
Although survey data indicate less interest in mining careers among Victorian youth than the national average, Victorian students have above-average engagement in courses relevant to the resources industry. Survey results show significantly more Victorian students are undertaking Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related courses than in other states and territories.
STEM expertise is critical to the resources industry, and factors significantly in many resources professions. The survey findings suggest, therefore, that young Victorians are interested in the ideas, skills and knowledge involved in many resources professions, but do not recognise the resources sector as one in which they can pursue those interests. Course engagement is not translating into career aspiration.
Figure 3 compares Victorian and national enrolments and marks out some of the key resources-relevant fields in which Victoria exceeds the national average.
The survey also asked respondents to identify the types of information they access to inform their understanding of careers. Survey results show the resources Victorian youth most commonly access include university open days (60%) and general career websites (50%). These resources do not, however, have the most significant impact on young people’s career interests. Rather, survey participants cited work experience programs and industry-specific initiatives, like science summer camps, as having ‘a lot’ of influence on their understanding of industry careers.
Figures 4 and 5 shows the discrepancy between Young Victorians’ access to different career resources, and the influence of those resources on career interest.
2.1.2 The career decisions of Victorian youth are primarily influenced by parents
Young people in Victoria are most likely to have spoken to their parents and peers about their career decisions. When researchers asked participants who they had spoken to about their future career, 76% indicated their mother and 66% their father, as shown in Figure 6. However, Figure 7 shows the gap between mothers and fathers narrows when it comes to influence, with 84% of respondents reporting their mother had ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’ of influence and 81% of survey respondents reporting their father had ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’ of influence. Interestingly, Young Victorians participants said teachers and lecturers had a substantial influence on their thinking about future careers, but only 44% had engaged with them on the topic.
Young Victorians’ career certainty increases with education, with a reset between finishing high school and starting university. As demonstrated in Figure 8, 82% of respondents in Year 12 were ‘very certain’ or ‘fairly certain’ about their career, but this decreases to 69% in the first year of university. This certainty is re-established by the time individuals reach the end of their university degrees, with 79% of respondents ‘very certain’ or ‘fairly certain’ at this stage. These figures contrast with the career certainty of students in the middle of secondary school which are significantly lower. This contrast suggests that that the younger an individual is in their educational journey, the greater the scope for influencing career choices, and the more likely it is they can be attracted into a career in the resources industry.
2.1.3 Environmental concerns are the most significant barrier for Victorian youth entering the resources industry
The survey data indicate Young Victorians are concerned about what they understand to be the environmental impacts of mining. As shown in Figures 9 and 10, when the statement ‘Mining is an environmentally destructive industry’ was posed to participants, 72% of Victorian respondents indicated they ‘somewhat agree’ or ‘strongly agree’. When researchers posed the same statement to youth in other states, 63% of respondents indicated they ‘somewhat agree’ or ‘strongly agree’.
Survey findings also show Victorian youth hold specific views about the types of resources associated with the mining industry (Figure 11). Victorian youth associate the mining industry coal (76%), predominantly, followed by oil (49%). This highlights a deficit in knowledge of the full range of resources mined and presents an opportunity to reposition the industry and increase knowledge of non-fossil fuel commodities. This includes Victoria’s gold industry as well as the range of economically important heavy minerals contained within the state’s mineral sands endowment.
2.1.4 Victorian youth hold positive views about the resources industry’s contribution to the national economy
Young people in Victoria show awareness of the importance of the mining industry to the national economy. As seen in Figure 12, when participants were asked to consider the impact of the resources industry, 50% identified the industry’s importance to the national economy. However, only 26% of respondents saw the industry as being directly important to the Victorian economy. This suggests young people in Victoria see mining as a national industry, rather than one with a significant presence or value in Victoria.
Interestingly, young people who associated mining with negative environmental impacts still demonstrated an understanding of the positive contributions mining makes to the Australian economy. As seen in Figure 13, when participants were asked about the importance of mining to the Australian economy, 55% of respondents who associated mining with negative environmental impacts still indicated mining is important to the Australian economy. This compares to 39% of respondents who had no negative associations concerning the impact mining has on the environment. This demonstrates that, despite environmental concerns being a significant barrier for Victorian youth entering the mining industry, those who associate mining with negative environmental effects still appreciate the importance of the resources industry to the Australian economy.
2.1.5 Perceptions of Victorian youth are positively impacted through an increased understanding of the mining lifestyle, site experiences and environmental activities
Survey responses indicate several effective ways to influence youth perceptions of the mining industry, including:
- Articulating the benefits of the mining lifestyle, for example, including opportunities to live and work in regional Victoria
- Engaging youth in site visits; and
- Demonstrating the environmental activities of the mining industry.
Additionally, it was found that youth are interested in new and emerging technologies. 85% of respondents indicated that they are somewhat interested’ or ‘very interested’ in renewable energy, 73% in self-driving cars and 72% in artificial intelligence. This highlights that, equipped with greater knowledge of the role of new and emerging technologies in mining, young people may become be more interested in mining than the 2% of respondents indicated at Figure 2. Improved knowledge of new and emerging technologies in the mining industry is required.
Victorian youth are interested in mine site work experience programs and the appeal of the FIFO lifestyle. Figure 15 shows 59% of survey respondents indicated they are ‘maybe’ or ‘definitely’ interested in attending a mine site work experience program. Additionally, Figure 16 demonstrates that 45% of survey respondents indicated a FIFO lifestyle is ‘a little more appealing’ or ‘a lot more appealing’ than a normal working week. The resources industry could look to tailor its educational efforts to highlight these factors, leveraging this great understanding of what factors positively impact young Victorian’s interest in resources careers.
1. Earth Resources, ‘State of Discovery: Mineral Resources Strategy 2018 – 2023’, available at: https://earthresources.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/453779/Mineral-Resources-Strategy-2018-2023.pdf.
2. Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) 2021, ‘AusIMM Professional Employment and Remuneration Survey 2020’.