Veteran employment: mining vs agriculture
Leaving the Defence Force and transitioning back into civilian life can be challenging for veterans, no matter what their age, or former rank.
Many ex-servicemen and women struggle with settling back into civilian life and deciding where to go next in their careers.
The issue of veteran employment is always high on the community agenda. To find out more about the needs of veterans and their families, the Ex-Service Organisation (ESO) Mapping Project was launched last year. It aims to map the services of Ex-Service Organisations and identify the gaps and overlaps in those services.
When launching the project, veteran advocate Sir Angus Houston said: “Every veteran and their family, regardless of their age or experience, should be able to access services that meet their needs.
“It is imperative that we find that people that are slipping through the gaps, particularly those in regional areas, as they volunteered their services for our country in its time of need.”
Research for the project found that a large number of veterans aged under 55 lived in regional or remote mining areas and are considering employment in agriculture or mining.
Given this finding, Agri Veterans thought it might be useful to provide a comparison of the two industries in terms of veteran employment.
Below we’ve highlighted the key variables veterans should be aware of.
Mining work is usually located in remote locations, which typically lends itself to fly-in-fly-out arrangements, where workers might have 2 weeks on, 1 week off, for example.
One great advantage of FIFO is that you have a dedicated “rest and relaxation” period when you come home that gives you enough time to fully recover from the long hours and shift work.
Also, your home and work life are completely separate, so there’s never any danger of you taking your work home with you. Your off period is also a good opportunity to spend quality time with your family.
While you’re on site, the only thing you have to do aside from work is your washing. All meals and over chores are taken care of.
If you’re single, you’re not spending as much money on site as you would at home, so it’s a great way to save for a housing deposit or similar.
Family and friends can struggle to understand what it’s like to live in a small mining camp, with its long hours and rostering issues. It can be tough for them to relate to your experience, and you’ll often miss out on significant events at home. If you’re in a relationship, this can cause issues – particularly if you have children.
Some people can feel constrained by the camp lifestyle, which can feel monotonous and prison-like at times. When you’re new to site, it can be challenging to get to know the people you’re working with.
Most agriculture work is based on large farms and properties in regional Australia, which requires relocating to the area for a season or permanently.
Fly in, fly out arrangements are much less common in agriculture. A career on the land may involve moving your family to a regional area permanently, which would be a big change if you are used to living in a metropolitan area.
While the lifestyle can leave a lot to be desired, one of the biggest drawcards of working in mining is the remuneration. Particularly when the Australian boom was in full swing between 2003 and 2013.
While the demand for workers is not what it once was, mining work still commands a high salary – regardless of the role – which in part is to compensate for the isolated lifestyle, long hours and travel.
As with most industries, remuneration for an agriculture role will depend on your skills (many of which are transferrable from a veteran employment perspective) and experience.
Salaries range from around $20 per hour for a farm hand to $100,000+ per year as a manager or senior tradesperson.
Agriculture remuneration packages may not be as high as in mining, although they are on the rise. Your salary will often depend on the company you’re working for.
A key drawcard for the agriculture industry, outside of the family-friendly lifestyle and community values, is a package that includes non-monetary remuneration.
For example, it is not uncommon for employers to offer free accommodation for employees and their families.
While it’s certainly a very high-earning industry, career progression in mining depends on how the industry is performing at the time. There are more than 120 types of jobs available at a mine site, but many of these require up-skilling via a short course or other further study. Yes, there are fewer of the extremely high-earning mining jobs available at the moment, but that could all change in time.
A role as a mining engineer, for example, is lucrative work if you can get it and keep it. There are all sorts of roles needed on the mines, from mining engineers to accountants to all types of tradesmen.
Many skills learned on the mines can be applied elsewhere, particularly with white collar roles like accounting, HR and management, but very specific mining roles for geologists and mining engineers could be hard to translate into other industries.
In terms of veteran employment, there are good prospects for career progression in agriculture because skills are transferrable and the industry is expanding.
Agriculture is currently Australia’s fastest-growing industry, with more producers looking to take on people who want to build a life and career on the land long term.
Before you take on a role and move your whole life to an area, it’s important to investigate your employer and find out if they’re looking for someone to stay with the company long term.
Agriculture: the industry by numbers
- Added $60 billion to the national economy last year
- Experienced 23% growth over the past 12 months
- On track to be Australia’s next $100 billion industry