In this age of technological innovation and advancement, e-commerce and rapid urbanisation, almost everything is possible and achievable. In business, companies can create a product and make consumers want it, in the same way that consumers can create a need for a product and make business actually produce it.
Australia’s mining industry is in the brink of a looming workforce shortage. Estimates show that at least 150,000 workers are needed to support mining projects all over the country by 2015, the ABC News said.
Banking on this urgent, definite requirement, mining companies may opt to consider expanding corporate mentalities to study accommodating female workers in its mines.
But it is not just about posting a vacant job opening advertisement on the Internet or at the community bulletin board. Mining companies should create a need to be able to entice the Australian female population to work for the industry.
‘One of the real challenges in some resource workplaces will be to change the culture and the acceptance of women in mainstream work,’ Minna Knight, director of the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA), said in ABC News.
The mining industry is open to accepting female workers and highly regards their capabilities. In fact, it needs them to fill vacancies as engineers, geo-scientists, IT workers and business managers.
Unfortunately though, the female workforce population in Australia’s mining industry only grew to 18 per cent over the past 20 years.
The minimal ascent isn’t much as due to the hard labor commonly associated while working in the mines.
Mining companies, as it continuously improve work conditions, should also improve and change mindsets towards female workers. Retaining the female workforce has been an ordeal that high salaries cannot just solve.
‘Fixing attitudes is as important. There needs to be appropriate accommodation and ablution areas, flexible work practices, the ability to return to work after having children, and reliable childcare,’ Ms Knight said.
A number of mining companies have foreseen that it needs to lay down a customized work scheme for the female workforce and have actually created initiatives. Still, it failed to translate to a corresponding jump in the number of women in the workforce.
Linley Lord, a professor at Curtin University, believed mining companies do have company policies specifically catered to its female workforce.
However, she questioned if such policies are being properly implemented and put into best practice.As the professional manufacturer of complete sets of mining machinery, such as sand washer,stone production line, Henan Hongxing is always doing the best in products and service.
‘Implementation is often at management discretion, but there’s no check on what that means. I think we’re trapped in ‘this is the way we’ve always done it so women just have to fit in,’ she said.
‘My view is, organizations need to change. It’s not just about women,’ she added.
Last week, the AMMA launched the Australian Women in Resources Alliance. It is a project that aims to bring together the many industry initiatives appealing to women and address workforce-related issues with a coordinated approach. The AMMA said it wants women to represent a quarter of the industry by 2020.
‘We’re working to remove the barriers to entry with awareness and education and advice,’ Knight said.
Lord said mining companies can boost to 25 per cent its women employment if it is serious enough making changes to its practices.
Ms Knight cited the adjustments made by oil and gas giant Woodside, whose improvements resulted to a representation in its female workforce at above average 26.4 per cent. In 2010 Woodside won the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia’s inaugural Women in Resources award for its support of women in the workplace.
The company offers parental leave which results to 90 per cent of its women returning to their jobs after having children. Requests for flexible hours and job-sharing are also accommodated and negotiated.
Moreover, Woodside has three breast milk expressing rooms in its Perth office and a women’s networking group.
Last week, the Australian federal government, pressed to address the country’s mining workforce shortage, moved to fast-track the processing and approval times for applications for 457 work visas, as well as increase employer sponsorship period to six years from the present three. The work visa programme has been crucial in meeting skill gaps. It lets foreign workers stay and work in Australia for up to four years.
The fast-tracking moved processing time within 10 days from the previous average of 22 days
The endeavor aims to lure Indian nationals to work for Australia’s mining industry. Indian skilled workers are Australia’s second-largest partners under the 457 work visa programme. Over the last two decades, 223,000 Indian nationals have arrived as permanent migrants to Australia. Over three-quarters of them were in the skilled stream of the programme.