Home » Young people are choosing high paying mining jobs to set themselves up amid cost of living crisis

Young people are choosing high paying mining jobs to set themselves up amid cost of living crisis

For Sienna Mallon, it was a no-brainer for her to ditch her so-so job and chilly home in Victoria for higher-paid work in the mining industry in central Queensland two years ago. 

After graduating with a degree in agriculture science, the 27-year-old was working in the agricultural resource industry in Geelong when she was offered a job in the mines.

“This allows you to set yourself up, which is becoming increasingly more difficult as a young person,” Ms Mallon said. 

She said over the past two years, she had noticed a higher proportion of young people filtering into her workplace. 

Kirsty Sewell runs Industry Resumes Australia, a company which helps people find jobs in the resources and mining sector.

Kirsty Sewell helps people secure work in the mining industry.(Supplied: Kirsty Sewell)

She said she had seen a huge increase in women and younger people applying for jobs in the industry.

“I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years, and predominantly it used to just be middle-aged men that would be needing resumes for FIFO roles,” Ms Sewell said.

“But lately I’m seeing a lot more of my clients are female and also younger, so more within the 18 to 25-year-old age bracket.”

In its Critical Minerals Strategy 2020-2030, the government says the industry needs to increase the number of graduates and women in the industry. 

Cost of living bites 

A national survey by Headspace last year revealed that cost of living was the single biggest concern for young Australians, alongside the affordability of housing and rent.

According to Jobs and Skills Australia, the average earnings of a worker in the mining sector is $2,403 per week, higher than the all-industries median earnings of $1,300.

Ms Mallon said that since taking up the work, she had encountered less financial stress.

“Now I have to worry about how much I have saved, not how can I afford to live,” she said.

 “I worked out that if stayed in my role down south, it would have taken me 25 years to pay off my HECS debt, whereas it’s only going to take me five and a half years to pay it off in the role that I’m in.”

Ms Mallon said it could be easier to move up the professional ladder when you were working in remote areas.

Woman stands on the wheel of a large digger

Ms Mallon says she will pay off her student debt faster thanks to her mining job.(Supplied: Sienna Mallon)

“Being a superintendent at 25 years old is obviously quite an impressive role title to have at such a young age,” she said.

“It’s a title I would have never been able to acquire if I was in say, Melbourne or Sydney or Brisbane, only because the talent pool is so saturated there.”

Chrystal Lui, 22, works as a fly-in, fly-out graduate engineer at a coal mine also in central Queensland.

Woman stands in front of coal processing facility in dayglow and hard hat

At just 22, Chrystal Lui is working as an engineer in a central Queensland coal mine. (Supplied: Chrystal Lui)

Ms Lui said she felt fortunate to be paid well for her hard work, but other parts of the job had kept her in the industry.

“The flexibility of the lifestyle really surprised me … it is such a nice routine to separate my work and life, and have a long weekend every weekend,” she said.

Not for the faint of heart

The number of women employed full time in the mining industry nationally jumped from 8,700 in August 2002 to 45,000 in August 2022, as per Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

But they still only account for 21 per cent of the industry. 

According to Women in Mining and Resources Queensland, the sunshine state is leading the nation in the number of younger women working in the industry.

Thirty-eight per cent of their female cohort were aged 34 years or younger, compared to the national figure of 28.4 per cent.

Ms Mallon says the industry can still be a challenging environment for young women to work their way through.

“I don’t agree that it shouldn’t be for the faint of heart, but at this current point in time it is,” she said.

Woman drinks a can of drink in blow up pool with a dog

Ms Mallon says the industry can still be tough for young women.(Supplied: Sienna Mallon)

Ms Lui said she had been nervous at first about moving into the industry.

“But I have never felt that I wouldn’t have the same opportunities as anyone else here because I have so many female leaders around me,” she said.

Transferable skills for a renewable future?

Last year, employment in the mining sector grew by 3.5 per cent — up 10,200 workers.

By 2030, the federal Labor government wants 82 per cent of the nation’s energy supply to be renewable.

Amanda Cahill, chief executive of Next Economy — a not-for-profit organisation focused on Australia’s transition to renewable energy — says Australia’s renewable energy supply is currently around 30 per cent.

Amanda Cahill

Amanda Cahill says mining skills will be transferable to jobs in the renewable energy sector. 

Dr Cahill said there would be new and transferable jobs for workers coming into the critical minerals mining, manufacturing and production workforce.

“Transferable jobs will include in management, construction, engineering, electrical, plumbing and mechanical trades,” she said. 

“New and changing jobs will require training and upskilling for existing workers and those new to the workforce, such as blade and solar farm technicians.”

Impacts of social media

Ms Mallon started posting videos about her work on social media last year.

Her uploads have been popular.

She said the audience loved learning about different lifestyles.

“Whether we’re on days off or days on, we are engaging and interesting,” she said.

Ms Sewell also feels social media has had a huge impact on interest in the industry.

“There’s a lot of influencers out there promoting the benefits of FIFO, the amazing wages, and then the lifestyle it provides, like the ability to travel,” she said.

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