For many 17 year olds like me growing up in Townsville, the first job you landed after you left school was either an apprenticeship (preferably with the Defence Force) or a job working in hospitality or retail. When I left school in 2007, I had no idea what I wanted to do so I drifted in and out of casual labouring and general trades assistant jobs hoping that something would just fall into my lap. After 12 months of irregular work, my Mum was really starting to get on my case about finding a full-time job, in anything. Luckily, a mate heard about a barman’s position opening at a nightclub in the centre of town so I thought I’d better give it a shot. So I rocked up with my resume and can-do smile and surprisingly, got the job. It wasn’t so bad – the hours were good, I could sleep during the day and it was regular work. Happy days.
For the next 3 years, I learnt everything about running a bar and eventually worked my way up to become the Venue Manager with 15 staff reporting to me. The pay was pretty good and I was challenged every day but I just didn’t seem to be enjoying it as much anymore. I don’t know if it was the hours or the job but I started to think about what else I wanted to do in my life. Other than my RSA and School Certificate, I didn’t have any real skills (or so I thought) so I was just as clueless as I was 4 years before about which direction to take. It was nearing to Christmas anyway, so it probably wasn’t the best time to start looking for a new job but for the first time ever, I was really looking for something more.
“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”
– George Bernard Shaw
Well things just happen for a reason, don’t they? I was celebrating New Year’s Eve at a friend’s place down the road and bumped into mate who had been working over in WA. I hadn’t seen him since we left school and we spent most of the night reminiscing about old school times and his job working on an oil rig. I’d heard those guys make some serious money but had never considered it something that I could do. My mate Darren assured me that I could break into mining if I was willing to work hard and start right at the bottom just to get my foot in the door. Heh, I was single, 22 years old and looking for something different and maybe this was it.
He told me that I’d have a better chance at getting a mining job in WA if I could relocate interstate. Mining companies looking for FIFO workers need reliable people who can turn up for work when they are scheduled to. If you’re trying to catch a flight from the east coast to WA, chances are you’ll get delayed at some stage. With this in mind, I quit my job in Townsville and moved to Perth. Darren had a spare room which was all I really needed and thankfully, I had a bit of money behind me so I was able to spend some time getting qualified and ready for an opportunity.
I spoke to and registered with some mining groups/recruiters like Workpac, Mining People, Monadelphous and United Group etc. and they suggested that to increase my chances of getting an entry-level mining job with no experience, I should get my HR licence, EWP, Basic Rigging, Dogman, First Aid Certificate, Forklift, Blue/White Card, Working at Heights and Confined Space Ticket. Once I had all the basic qualifications I began applying for every Trades Assistant/Truck Driver job in mining that I could. It was tough work just getting a look in and I was knocked back on over 65 jobs that I applied for all because of course, I had no mine site experience. Whilst this was happening, I was working 2 casual bar jobs but I didn’t give up. Even though I hadn’t had the job offer I wanted, I was making some useful contacts along the way.
Then one day I got my golden ticket! I landed a 3 month labouring contract as a Confined Space Sentry out at Rockingham. Decent pay ($27.35/hour), long hours and my foot in the door, finally. Following that was a 6 month stint as a Trades Assistant in the Pilbara, leading to my current job in a prep plant hosing and cleaning equipment for $103K a year. Yes, you read it right – $103K a year! It took me over 17 months to get there, but I got there – eventually. So you too can break into the mining industry if you want it badly enough. The work is hard and dirty and not for everyone but if it’s decent money you want, then there are jobs or the taking.