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This mining graduate went to market, this mining graduate stayed home, this mining graduate ate humble pie and this mining graduate got none

Simon Cohen Queensland University Graduate

MEC Mining – Managing Director

The pathways to developing a successful career in mining begins with a first step. During the recent mining downturn the lack of this first step has left many mining graduates without an opportunity and has certainly contributed to new undergraduate intakes at record lows. There is no doubt the industry will pay for this issue over the next 10 years and beyond, but reality is we are where we are, and we need to make the best of it and focus on changing this future trend. Encouraging and inspiring future generations that mining opens a range of possibilities is something all of us in the industry can assist with.

I reflected on what the industry was like when I graduated close to 20 years ago and the conditions are remarkably similar. So how did all my cohort make it through and end up with successful mining careers? Well the answer is not all did, but the determined ones made it work. To make any opportunity work you have to consider the possibility of alternative futures, and in this situation that a mining degree is not just a stepping stone into a mining operation career but a range of possible careers. I thought I would share a few of these paths.

Path 1 – The first graduate hit the market hard, accepted the knock backs from all the graduate programs as part of applying for 100 + jobs and built resilience throughout the journey. They eventually landed a graduate role with a small and remote mining operation FIFO on 3 weeks on 1 week off roster. While the opportunity seemed like a career step to nowhere, it actually presented an opportunity to be hands on, develop an extraordinary knowledge of all aspects of the mining operation and ended up fast tracking their career to a mining manager within a 10 year window. The perseverance and resilience payed off.

Path 2 – The second graduate decided not to leave their home town and to use the opportunity to add a second degree in a financial discipline, along with picking up part time work as a consultant while studying their 2nd degree. When they graduated 3 years later they were well placed to enter the banking sector and developed an incredible career advising companies on mergers, acquisitions and sales of mining assets. 10 years on they were a senior partner in a private firm. Taking a different path by leveraging their initial skill opened opportunities most others didn’t think of.

Path 3 – The third graduate didn’t enter a professional discipline out of uni. They started their mining career by driving haul trucks, progressing to an excavator and then to a shift supervisor within 3 years. They returned to a professional role soon after and because of their operational and people management experience they gained, rapidly progressed their career to general manager within 10 years.

Path 4 – The forth graduate like most others applied for jobs straight out of uni, but rapidly lost interest in the mining market, their goal for a mining career was driven by money rather than a true desire to get out on site. The opportunities that did come their way were not taken due to not enough money, the site was too remote, roster was too long, or not wanting to relocate away from home. They couldn’t see what the other 3 could and needless to say their career did not prosper.

Resilience, agility and open-mindedness are qualities that most mining leaders i meet have embraced to make it to where they are today. Everyone took a first step in their career to get to where they are, what was your first step in mining?