The rise of the mining and fuel industries in the 1980s introduced Australia to the labour model now known as FIFO, short for “fly-in, fly-out.” FIFO pertains to the recruitment of staff for long-distance work, often to be completed in remote locations where accommodation and meals are provided to them. The FIFO model opened up opportunities for Australian labourers to finish short-term contracts in such locations without needing to uproot their entire families; instead, they would work on a “swing” cycle of 14 days on the work site and 7 days back at home in the city.
Ten years ago, FIFO jobs occupied about 40% of the Australian workforce. Today, the arrangement is very much on the upsurge, constituting 65% of the country’s labour and encompassing anywhere between 60,000 to 65,000 FIFO workers. The demand for FIFO jobs in Australia comes mostly from the mining, construction, transport, and mechanics industries, and the openings range from entry-level jobs to supervisory positions.
For those looking to explore something different with FIFO, the prospects for doing so are quite good. Some townships in Australia are already well-known for being FIFO birthing grounds, and they’ve populated each area with ample utility services (such as laundry and cleaning), restaurants, recreational spaces, and medical facilities to serve FIFO workers. Moreover, a number of recruitment agencies have improved working conditions, accommodations, and meal provisions for their workers; some have also changed up the traditional working cycle to fit a 7-7 home-away interval to achieve greater career satisfaction.
When all is said and done, do you have what it takes to be a FIFO? Are you physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to take on this line of work and flourish in your respective worksite? To help you assess your readiness, here’s a checklist of concerns that you’ll need to address before seeking out FIFO jobs in Australia.
Are you in good physical condition?
The majority of FIFO contracts demand that you follow strict routines, work on long shifts, and use up large quantities of physical and mental strength. Knowing this, you should be adequately prepared to counter illness, injury, fatigue, interruptions to your sleeping pattern, and the like. Before you make any plans to leave, go through all the necessary medical assessments: have a check-up, go through a blood test, acquire a medical certificate, and attain the doctor’s advice on how you should be managing your health while you’re away.
Is your family life in order?
The good thing about a FIFO contract is that you can compartmentalise your work and family life. For some labourers, being away from the distractions of the city is a blessing, as it affords them better focus on providing for their loved ones. All the same, however, you can’t ignore that being away from home for long periods will take a toll on your relationships. You will need to put in double the emotional effort to make up for missing birthday celebrations, milestones, and the like. Thus, even before you leave, it’s a good idea to discuss how often you’ll communicate with your family about health, education, financial matters, and social lives. As long as you stay true to this commitment, you’ll avoid homesickness, loneliness, and fear of missing out.
Do you have all the necessary trade-related documents in your possession?
When you are applying for a FIFO job, be sure that all your documents are in working order and are ready to be processed by a new employer. These include: all your valid IDs, a renewed driver’s licence (especially if the FIFO work entails driving a vehicle around the area), a Recognised Trade Certificate from Trades Recognition Australia to certify your eligibility for the position, and police clearance from the Australian Federal Police. If you anticipate that you’ll need recommendation letters to prove that you are of good moral character, secure 2 to 3 of them from your previous employer, your school, a trade institute, and the like.
Have you done diligent research on your working setup?
To make the transition easier on you, do your research on the demographics of the location, what the transport system is like, what facilities are near your work headquarters—and, in general, what life will be like in your chosen industry and position. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the companies themselves, to the agencies handling recruitment, or to fellow labourers currently completing FIFO contracts.
FIFO labourers are noble in a number of ways. Many are able to witness literal “groundbreaking” work in developing areas. They are also in the company of many like-minded hard workers, and all are united in the focused pursuit of industry, craft, and better opportunities for their families back home. Being a FIFO worker entails numerous sacrifices, but there are many rewards to be had as well.
If this is the path that you choose, best of luck, and may any short-term FIFO arrangement align with your long-term plans for your savings, your career satisfaction, and the growth and well-being of your family.