WA businesses ramp up CIO, senior ICT hires to deal with mining boom

As the mining and resources sector continues to expand, companies in the state are hiring CIO and senior ICT workers to deal with demand

Western Australia has seen a ramp up in recruitment of CIOs and senior ICT employees as companies try to meet increasing demands of the ongoing mining and resources boom.

Peoplebank chief executive, Peter Acheson, said the demand for senior ICT roles in WA, specifically in the Perth region, has increased significantly over the past six months and is a reflection of the two-speed economy.

“At the moment, consistent with the conflict of a two-speed economy, the East Coast is reasonably subdued in terms of IT and IT hiring, but Perth is very strong which is being driven by the resources sector and the engineering sector,” Acheson said.

“I think there are different factors at play and while WA is not taking over as an IT hub or taking jobs from other states, there’s a mining boom happening and major corporations are hiring IT people and CIOs to respond to that.”

According to Hays Recruitment director of IT, Peter Noblet, the increase has been more a case of recruiting for newly established senior end roles as opposed to CIOs. He also noted the demand was more significant in the public sector as people tend to move around.

“We’re certainly seeing good hiring intentions both in contract and permanent recruitment,” he said. “I think it’s especially easy at the moment to recruit in the contract space because there is flexibility there.”

The ICT hiring landscape in WA has seen significant change in the last 12 months, Noblet said, not only for the companies within the mining and resources sector but also for companies servicing the sector.

“There is also knock-on effect for other organisations which may not directly service the resources and mining industry that are still going to be well advantaged in WA as they’re supplying to equipment providers who are supplying to resources and mining so there’s a few links in there.”

CIO of West Australian-based mining and rail company Calibre Global, Jason Cowie, began his CIO career in the state some 15 years ago with stints at McMahon Holdings and Cap Australia Holdings.

While he agrees that the mining and resources boom has had a significant effect on the hiring in the state, he also said companies in Perth have undergone a culture change and have realised the potential ICT can have on driving the business.

“Early in my career most of the roles around were for IT managers, there were not many CIOs, so it was very hard to engage vendors at a strategic level back then,” Cowie said.

“I think there’s a lot more businesses in Perth now that have grown bigger and that are a lot more strategically focused on understanding how IT can be at the core of helping that business grow.

“I think it’s a change of boards wanting to know what the IT strategy is and having a greater awareness at the CEO and CFO level that their company should have an IT strategy.”

With the ongoing skills shortage, Peoplebank’s Acheson says the market for IT recruitment in WA will continue to tighten as the candidate pool is much more “shallow” than that in Melbourne or Sydney.

While the wealth of job opportunities on the West Coast had not caused Sydney and Melbourne-based ICT workers to pack up and move to the state in droves, Acheson said the opportunities had certainly caused some to consider it.

“At the moment there are people who are contemplating making the move from the East Coast to Perth, it’s seen as an attractive place to live and the mining boom certainly makes it a more attractive place to work.”

According to Noblet, there has always been a degree of difficulty in finding the skills in WA due to its location, and the situation is only getting worse.

“Even though the work is good there are only a finite number of people there and so employers are looking at a lot more overseas movement with people coming in from both Asia and Europe on permanent residency visas.

“You’re also seeing employers who are quite open to sponsoring candidates so we’ve seen a lot more of that in WA and it’s definitely new.”

The idea that employers should provide some sort of incentive to attract and retain staff in the state should not be dismissed, Calibre’s Cowie said, but money is not necessarily the answer.

“There are a couple of strategies, the first being you need to have a vision because people will jump jobs if they don’t know where their CIO wants to head,” he said. “You have to pay your staff competitively but you don’t have to pay top dollar because not all companies can, you’ve got to build an environment where there’s a great team atmosphere, where people feel like their contribution is adding value to the entire company’s contribution.

“I do a lot of team networking with my guys, whether it’s an event like go-karting or golf.”

Cowie said that employers should show their employees the vision and projects they will work on, and also offer training for career growth and social activities in addition.

“I think true CIOs who are proper strategists will definitely have the vision and you certainly become more prolific because people realise that people in WA at the moment can change jobs and if you want your good people you’ve got to offer them something other than money.”

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow CIO Australia on Twitter: @CIO_Australia

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