New automation jobs training: Did mining just get cool?

Picture of a student

WA Government has just announced new automation jobs training: Did mining just get cool? Let's take a look.

Automation is a huge innovation in the mining industry in Australia right now. Everything from trains to dump trucks are driven automatically, by remote control. Automation is making mining much cheaper and sites more efficient and safe. It’s the future.

Talk of automation often causes workers to fear for their jobs, assuming that automation is going to lead to replacing people with machines. While the adoption of technology can, of course, come with reduced needs for some skills, it also comes with an increased demand for others.

WA Government announces STEM initiative

With automation playing such a significant role in the future of mining, the WA Government and mining heavyweights have joined forces to create Australia’s first automation qualifications. This was announced earlier this month by Rio Tinto, who has partnered with South Metropolitan TAFE to establish nationally accredited courses in automation from 2019. The alliance is being chaired by former WesTrac Chief Executive and current WA State Training Board Chairman, Jim Walker.

As part of the process to bring the curriculum together, Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Chris Salisbury and Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery invited guests to join a pioneering vocational education and training (VET) collaboration to further develop training courses to meet the future needs of industry.

Engaging the industry is an essential step in ensuring that this training is going to actually create the candidates needed by large and small mining organisations moving forward.

Making mining cool again

A couple of months ago, we wrote about the skilled labour shortage that the industry was facing. Part of this problem was that studying STEM subjects wasn’t seen as cool right now, which meant potential issues for the mining industry finding skilled staff in the future.

With the introduction of this new training curriculum and encouraging people into mining automation jobs – a relatively tech-advanced, cool field of mining – it could be exactly what the industry needs to get more people through STEM training and increasing the pool of talented candidates for the steady requirements the industry is expecting for the future. Who wouldn't want to play with giant robots at work?

Sharing his thoughts on the topic, MPi Managing Director Steve Heather said: “I’ve often been critical of certain mining companies (particularly the large bulk commodity producers) pushing up trainee and graduate salaries simply because they can, thereby starting a bidding war by forcing smaller mining companies to match them.

“I have to admit, though, this looks like a good initiative which should increase awareness within the general public of some of the really interesting jobs on offer in the mining industry.

“It should also increase the size of the potential talent pool out there, therefore helping somewhat moderate the expected rate of future salary increases.”

Whatever mining jobs you’re in the market for, MPi can help. We help people find mining employment in everything from labouring jobs to engineering jobs. Register with MPi here.

Stephanie O'Brien
Mining People International