In a recent Resource People article (Peabody Re-Energises Talent Solutions, issue 009 - Summer 2014-15) Peabody Energy's head of HR Geoff Woodcroft - who is a member of the MCA's guiding Workforce Committee - talked about the coal sector's workforce and its challenges in retaining and developing critical skills.
Woodcroft has held senior HR roles with Peabody for over five years, during which time the company has seen financial results unprecedented in its 129 year history. Its Queensland and New South Wales operations contributed almost half of the record $8b revenue. Desipte declining coal prices in recent years, Peabody's outlook is optimistic - expecting coal demand to rise by 600m tonnes by 2016. - Woodcroft understands that investment in workforce and workforce skills is needed now more than ever.
The Skills Challenge
In recent years staff turnover rates have eased along with market conditions, offering much relief to Peabody and the industry more broadly. Geoff proposes, however, that with inreased retention rates, 'it means that highly skilled talent is staying put, so there are still shortages in some critical skills areas.'
Workforce replenishment is another issue Peabody Energy is working proactively towards ameliorating.
Our baby boomers are starting to retire and there's going to be a huge number of people exiting the workforce in the next 10-15 years. That's going to leave us short of some very critical talent and so the issue of skills shortages won't be going away. (p.13)
Peabody is thus focusing on three important areas in its current and future talent management plan:
Woodcroft ackowledges that succession planning is critical. Preparing people for the next level, and tapping into the under-utilised female talent pool are both challenges and opportunities for Peabody and the industry. Peabody has significantly ramped up its leadership development initiatives to ensure its leaders have the tools and qualities that will steer the organisation 'through tougher times.'
Ensuring the Pipeline
Woodcroft understands that to ensure the future pipeline of talented young professionals, it is important that the three parters industry, education, and government adress future skills needs today. As demonstrated by the graph below, the state of the industry has a notable effect on enrolment numbers into higher edcuation mining programs.
(Source: Lind, 2014)
As noted by Woodcroft, 'During the [GFC] we saw a reduction in the number of young people choosing mining degrees, resulting in a shortfall of qualified mining engineers a few years later.' He acknowledges that the current downturn will create a 'significant problem' into the future in the sense of better market conditions but less available professional skilled labour.
Woodcroft says his HR team are focused on exploring new opportunities to 'Maximise investment in their graduates.' His HR team have refreshed their graduate program to ensure it is more contemporary and appealing to talented young students. Woodcroft proposes that the future pipeline of talent will demand 'visible career paths and flexible arragements.' Woodcroft compares the increased investment in technological innovation in Peobody with innovation in its graduate programs.
Ensuring the pipeline of skilled professionals requires foresight and planning. Industry wide initiatives such as the Minerals Industry National Associate Degree (MINAD) program, which has been designed in concert with Peabody and other MCA member companies, is one example of industry's committment to securing the long term supply of suitably qualifed people to our industry.
Information about Peobody Energy's graduate and vacation programs can be found here.
Resource People (2015) Peabody Re-Energises talent solutions. Retrieved 27.02.2015 from http://www.amma.org.au/RP/Issue009_Summer2014/files/assets/basic-html/page14.html
Lind, G. (2014) Fostering minerals workforce skills of tomorrow through education and training partnerships. External Presentation. Minerals Council of Australia