8 things you need to know before starting a career in Drilling
Updated: Jun 24
People are constantly asking “how do I get a FIFO job?” It’s not surprising – the money is excellent, you work with great people, and for weeks at a time, you live rent-free and someone cooks all your meals for you – sounds like a pretty sweet deal!
One of the best entry-level roles for someone looking to get into the mining industry is as a Driller’s Offsider. We won’t lie though, it’s a bloody hard job physically, but the rewards are definitely serious.
But before you rush head-long into this, here are 8 things you need to ask yourself:
1. Have you discussed the FIFO lifestyle with your partner/family?
There is a reason that FIFO work pays so well – there is a trade-off. Being away for 2 weeks, 3 weeks, or even 4 weeks at once can be a serious challenge for relationships – especially if you have a young family.
One of the top reasons people leave mining is family issues – you need to go into this with open eyes, and make sure you have the buy-in from those who matter most to you. Know that you might miss a friend’s wedding, know that you might miss a kid’s birthday, and know that re-adjusting to living with family after weeks on-site can be hard too.
The up-swing is that when you are ‘off’ you have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to do whatever you like (except drugs – definitely don’t take drugs).
If you’re really serious about getting into the industry and you and your family don’t know what to expect, try doing ‘shut down’ work over a 3 months or so, and gauge if the FIFO lifestyle is for you before you commit to a permanent job.
2. Do you have the right tickets/licences to get started?
All surface-drilling jobs will require you to have your HR licence. For an Underground Drilling role, you will get by on a C class, but the first step towards getting a surface drilling job is to go and get your HR licence.
You also need to make sure your licence is clean: so pay your fines, don’t drive like a tool, and realise that the fun you have in your car on the weekend could be impacting your entire career.
As for other tickets…
At Itch we can get you set up on training courses for other required tickets, but it is advantageous if you already have First Aid, 4WD and Working at Heights, as this will get you on top of the pile of applications.
3. Do you have a relevant work history?
Have you proven your ability to work in a physically demanding environment, can you work long hours? Can you work in a team? Are you safety-conscious?
We look for applicants with a consistent 12 months in a labour intensive role where you have done repetitive, heavy lifting (such as brick laying, scaffolding, or even something as obscure as a farm-hand). This shows us that your body is up to the physical, repetitive nature of drilling and that you have proven your ability to do this for the long-term.
4. Have you had any run-ins with the law?
Just because you have a criminal record, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get a look-in, it really depends on what the charge was and also how long ago it occurred, and some of our clients have restrictions on employees. For example:
We might avoid putting someone into a gold mine who has been convicted of theft. Or someone with a significant history of violence (such as aggravated assault) may not be an ideal in a close-knit team working in the heat. Or a conviction of serious drug charges may be a red flag our clients that you could be a health and safety risk.
What is important is that you be up-front with us about your criminal record (you don’t need to disclose spent convictions) – our clients require a Police Clearance for every contractor, so the best policy is to be honest with us from the very beginning, so we can work with you to find something suitable.
5. Are you physically able to do the job?
Some sites have strict BMI (body mass index) restrictions of no greater than 35, due to site and climate conditions; so if you’re serious about a drilling job, it may be time to get yourself an appointment with a dietician and a personal trainer.
Some charter planes have a weight restriction of 130kg, so if you are flying to a remote site, you will need to keep your weight in check.
As for pre-employment medicals… these can last from 1.5 to 2.5 hours, and will include rigorous testing of your hearing, eyesight, breathing, muscles, and drug screening (yes that means peeing in a cup). It will also include a fitness test.
We can’t stress enough that you must meet a minimum fitness requirement to get a job as a Driller’s Offsider. In fact, before you go anywhere near a medical facility, we will put you through your paces at interview, (to save you some time going to a medical that you will fail). If you don’t meet fitness requirements at interview, we can provide some advice and referrals and ongoing encouragement to get you in shape for the job, and then you can come back when you are fit and ready!
6. Do you know how to spot industry cowboys who will take advantage of you and not look after you?
If it is your first job in Drilling, make sure you do some research on the drilling contractor – there are all kinds of support groups out there who can tell you about their experiences (on Facebook etc), or better yet, take advantage of your specialist recruiter (feel free to call us if you want some free advice about a potential employer!)
Also, be sure to ask these questions before you sign any employment contract:
What can you tell me about the company’s safety record?
Is it site-based or exploration-based? What are the site facilities like? If it is exploration, what is the accommodation like? (e.g. is there phone/internet coverage)
Are there set swings / set rosters?
Will this be a permanent job after probation, or is it an ongoing casual contract?
Does the company provide on-the-job training for a Cert II and Cert III Drilling? If so, will they do this in the first 12 months?
7. Do you know anything about drilling, or what sort of drilling is right for you?
Claustrophobic? Maybe underground drilling isn’t for you.
Not into caravans? Then steer clear of exploration drilling.
Find out everything you can before you commit to a job! Your recruiter should be able to tell you everything about various types and techniques of drilling and machinery used – and if they can’t – run a mile!
8. Are you willing to get qualified?
Good drilling companies will help you get qualified on-the-job. And a Cert III Drilling qualification can be your passport to drilling jobs around the whole world.
But it will take some work, and you need to be dedicated to completing the assessments and doing things the right way.
Once you are qualified and experienced, the world is yours (think Canada, Scandinavia, South America, West Africa, South Africa and Asia.)