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Australian mining industry facing skills shortage warns industry group

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A serious skills shortage could hit the Australian mining industry by the end of the decade, the Mineral Council of Australia has warned in a submission to a Senate enquiry into the future of the Australian workplace.
A marked decline in participation in STEM subjects in schools over the past decade is threatening the supply of highly-skilled professionals on which the Australian mining industry depends.
A marked decline in participation in STEM subjects in schools over the past decade is threatening the future supply of highly-skilled professionals that the Australian mining industry is dependent upon. This is despite the industry investing huge amounts in supporting graduates. Mining bodies have developed and supported a number of initiatives to increase awareness of an interest in careers in the industry. Aside from more than $50 million of direct investment in higher education through MTEC (Minerals Tertiary Education Council), the industry supports established programs including peer-to-peer outreach programs, online resources for teachers and teacher professional development.

Despite these efforts, the submission highlights that much more needs to be done:

“The number of students commencing mining programs across Australia in 2017 show enrolments continue a drastic downward trend to levels below those last seen in 2000.”

“There is a genuine threat of program closure because of critically low enrolment levels in programs, which are also… high cost to universities to run.”
The submission to the enquiry also highlighted the impact of rapid technological change upon workforce requirements.
Changing workforce needs

The Mineral Council of Australia’s submission to the Senate enquiry also highlighted the way in which technological change is exerting pressure upon the industry to recruit people with the right skill sets to deal with this development.

“The pace of technological change within Australia’s minerals industry is already apparent. Technologies such as automation and big data are presently being used across the value chain to increase productivity and reduce risk. These technologies are changing how companies mine, and the skills needed to work in this new environment. The industry also recognises that the pace of innovation within the industry is changing workforce needs at speed, and this presents opportunities and challenges for the minerals education sector.”

“An education system requiring reforms that support skills formation linked to an open, high quality education system to prepare people with the right skills for technology adoption, use and diffusion is required for Australians to meaningfully acquire capabilities and skills in the future minerals industry.”

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Recent Comments
I see this as a leadership failure. I spent over 20 years in the US Navy, and one of the thing I learned is to always have qualified personnel to do the job at all cost. To do that the Navy invest a lot of money in training, continuously doing what is called on job training - OJT, and cross train to maintain its work force. By infusion of new personnel and training them to do the job, the Navy is ensuring that it always has a qualified work force it needs for the job. This is something the mining industry in my opinion is not doing to assure continuity. I have been in Australia for about 8 months, and one thing I have noticed is the fact that mining companies are very reluctant to bring onboard people with skills and experience that are different to conventional mining skills and experience. Furthermore, its seems like major mining companies do not want to be involved in the training of their own required work force by infusing new personnel with transferrable skills. For all the mining jobs being advertised, there is no room for (OJT) so that there is a continuous workforce replacement ready to do the jobs. The requirements is for you to have all sort of tickets in addition to experience in the mining industry before there is a job offer. People with different skills and no experience in the mining industry are not looked as a potential asset in general. Twenty years in the Navy as a gas turbine (jet turbine) technician, maintenance planner, supervisor, engineering & propulsion plant manager with a master degree in Engineering & Project Management, but still been turned down countless of times for positions such as maintenance planner, coordinator, supervisor. I do not see the shortage in the industry as only lack of interest from students or enthusiasm from job seekers. I think it is mainly the shortage is due to an absence of foresight from mining leaders in generals. Leon Atta
Leon Atta, 27 February 2018
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