I started my career 18 years ago on a salary of $50,000 which was good money at the time. Mining was in a downturn and there weren’t too many jobs around. I sent 85 job applications and got one interview which thankfully went well and I got the job. Throughout the early part of my career a truck operator would get paid around $85,000 and most grads aspired to operating equipment for 6 months, motivated in large part by the extra money. Senior engineers in the 90’s were also actually mostly senior, many had aged enough to go a little grey or bald so it was understood that career aspirations would most likely take a while to play out.
While safety was important at the time, the anxiety around risk was much lower than the fever pitch that it is at today. Let’s face it, having grads driving trucks is certainly riskier than having career truck operators. If your next promotion was a fair way away, you can get paid almost twice as much to work less days on an even time roster and leave your brain at the gate each day – then who would pass that up? Operating equipment used to have a fair bit of pull factor. The universities liked the practice as it created extra grad jobs that helped employment stats for the graduating class.
However, the lure of operating equipment has faded with graduate salaries now not too far behind the operators (although employment prospects are tough), and the expectation remains that promotion to a senior role could happen when you are aged in the mid 20’s, meaning it’s wasted time doing laps in a truck. In addition, changes in legislation over time mean that most mine managers are now uncomfortable with a kid who is still on P plates driving a mining truck.
RIP grads on trucks.