Stanmore Coal's coal handling and processing plant. Photo: Emily Smith
Stanmore Coal's coal handling and processing plant. Photo: Emily Smith

More jobs than workers: Times changing in mining sector

DEMAND for skilled labour in the mining industry is outpacing supply for the first time in three years, believes Resource Industry Network chairman Tony Caruso.

As coal prices hit a five year high, recording $US307.20 a tonne last week, mining companies are reaching for maximum output fuelling demand for METS sector contractors.

"There wouldn't be a (mining sector) business in town that isn't chasing people in the trades area," Mr Caruso said.

He said the jolt of confidence also gave mining companies "breathing space financially" allowing them to contract out maintenance work they had delayed when coal prices were low.

However Resource Industry Network director Mick Crowe said much of the work arising was part time, and renewing tickets and getting inducted back into mine sites, which could cost thousands, may act as a barrier for some.

He hoped government would consider broadening the training schemes that covered these costs for those in full-time mining sector roles to also cover part-time employees.

"It's been quiet for three years. So even if the work only goes up 10% and it's not planned, there's not spare labour," Mr Crowe said.

"While the industry is still recovering it's patchy jobs not permanent. Government could change the training schemes so it's not constrained to full time roles."

Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert said she would be open to talking with the Resource Industry Network and relevant state government ministers about what government could do to help.

Minister for training and skills Yvette D'Ath has also been contacted for comment.

Mr Crowe also pointed out if the high coal prices maintained, that would also lead to increased certainty for workers.

"Once you see the prices continue, that's when you'll see real confidence," he said.

A search on job site for the Mackay region is dominated by companies seeking skilled workers.

Labour hire company One Key is sourcing dump truck operators, BTP Parts is looking for field service mechanics and D.A.C Mining Services is looking for diesel fitters.

As the storming coal prices followed the re-opening of local mines and progression of Adani's Carmichael coal project, Mackay Regional Council mayor Greg Williamson believed the labour shortage was a symptom of improving fortunes in the mining sector.

"This shortage means we've got more jobs available than skilled trades people. I'd rather be in that position than the other way around," Cr Williamson said.

He also clocked it up as another indication confidence was looming across the breadth of Mackay's key industries, as sugar prices hit high prices and the potential of the region's tourism industry was made evident through the state government's DestinationQ forum.