"Apprenticeship programs are starting to increase again, but it takes some time for the skillsets to get back into the market. We look forward to seeing this materialize, but we believe that it is still going to be a few years before we see new qualified skills entering the mining space."
- John Downing, CEO
Downing Teal has an extensive presence in Australia and South America. Could you elaborate on the recent merger between Downing Teal and CGH Group and underline the rationale behind the move?
JD: CGH Group, an Australian-based recruitment firm, merged with Downing Teal on 1st April, 2019 with the new name of the Executive Search division set to be Beilby Downing Teal. DT Workforce will be folded into CoreStaff. While Downing Teal is listed as being in all states, our presence in New South Wales and Victoria was not significant. These two states are of current importance given the thousands of new construction jobs. Downing Teal wanted to be stronger within the construction industry at professional and blue collar levels; while we have excellent connections, we did not have feet on the ground across Sydney and Melbourne, so the acquisition was focused on consolidation. CGH Group operates five specialist brands; CoreStaff, Beilby Recruitment, OPRA Psychology Group, Goal Indigenous Services and Vmac Employment Solutions. These brands provide a full suite of recruitment and HR services. They understand the industries we operate in and the consolidation of Downing Teal into this group will add value and allow for a broader range of services to be offered to our clients. In addition, companies have reorganized their operations to try to provide unqualified people to carry out some of the lesser roles, allowing the trades people to concentrate on aspects that require their specialist skills and thus easing the demand for qualified people.
How is Downing Teal able to find the right talent when there is currently a shortage in Western Australia (WA)?
IM: There is a real talent shortage in the blue-collar market - the trades and operators in mining operations - that has been driven by an aggressive focus on costs since 2012. Over a four-year period, there was a significant reduction in workforce numbers in mining operations as a direct result of commodity prices declining. A significant amount of talent returned to the eastern states of Australia as well as back to New Zealand. Over the last 18 months, as the market started to increase, it has been a real challenge to make sure that we are able to find quality people that our clients need. One of the biggest advantages that Downing Teal and DT Workforce have is the size and depth of our database, which has been built over a significant period of time.
JD: In the executive space, we have been active since 1966, and in the blue-collar trades and operator space, we have been active for approximately 19 years. The benefit of a comprehensive database has contributed significantly to offset some of the shortages in talent that we have seen over the last few years. Downing Teal will continue to leverage our advantages to offset the shortage of talent, and the challenges the market faces because of this shortage.
One of the other challenges is the lack of apprenticeship programs over the last six years in WA. Apprenticeship programs are starting to increase again, but it takes some time for the skillsets to get back into the market. We look forward to seeing this materialize, but we believe that it is still going to be a few years before we see new qualified skills entering the mining space. The journey has been restarted again and hopefully companies can learn a little bit more about the mistakes that they made when they turned the apprenticeship taps off during a downturn.
Is there a growing need for Downing Teal to attract foreign talent?
JD: Downing Teal has not yet had to attract foreign talent, but we will definitely have to. In the professional sector, there has been a lack of engineering students since the 1990s. Young people are not attracted to the industry, and the people that are in the industry are attracted to the cities in the East. The first challenge is that young people do not want to do the STEM subjects, and the second is that they do not want to go to sites in remote areas. More people are retiring, and less people are coming into the industry. Downing Teal prides itself in being able to find people and we have a database second to none. To date, we have been able to service our clients’ needs, but with a significant amount of projects coming online in WA in the near future, we will have to start recruiting talent internationally.
What is Downing Teal’s strategy moving forward, given that the company is now part of a much wider network?
IM: Mining companies have started to see the issues relating to talent shortages, and they are starting to train more people to do the less complex jobs within the industry. Mining companies need to use their skills to retrain and upskill their available workforce to combat the challenges we face with regards to talent shortages. Moving forward, Downing Teal has to be mindful of diversification. It might be that a slightly different range of services or associated industries will help to benefit organizations like ours that have historically had a focus on the mining sector. As part of the new group moving forward, there is likely to be more diversification for us as a business, as well as additional geographical growth within our traditional mining and construction market sectors.