Opportunities available: Is it time to reskill for the batteries industry?


The batteries industry will create 34,000 Australian jobs by 2030. Do you have the skills the battery industry needs? Or is it time to upskill?

The batteries industry is set to create 34,000 jobs across Australia by 2030, but does our mining industry workforce have the necessary skills required to fill those roles?

The short answer is yes and no.

That’s according to a new “vocational skills gap” study from the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBICRC) and South Metropolitan TAFE in WA.

The report analysed the extent to which current National Training Package qualifications are aligned with the skills and knowledge the country’s emerging battery industry will need from its workforce.

The batteries industry is forecast to contribute $7 billion to Australia’s economy over the next eight years, as the demand for batteries increases nine- to tenfold. So, it’s set to become a much bigger employer than it is now, including in mining.

READ MORE: Lithium Valley: Should WA’s mining industry value-add on its resource

So, what does this all mean for Australia’s mining industry workers? Let’s start with the good news.

Existing mining skills in demand from battery industry

The report found there were many battery industry jobs that required no new or unique skills compared to hard rock or base metal mining and concentrate projects. It said companies that were either operating or planning mines for “battery” minerals, such as lithium, nickel, vanadium, rare earths, graphite, manganese and kaolin, had told the report authors that they were looking for the standard skills sets for mining, crushing, milling and beneficiation as used in other base metal or hard rock mining operations.

“Additional companies… who were planning or operating mining projects in graphite, nickel, rare earths, bauxite or kaolin reiterated that the mining skills currently available in Australia were sufficient for their mining and concentrate processes.

“(Companies) consistently reported that the existing mining-sector skills are suitable for their battery mineral mining and concentrate projects. Workers experienced in other mining operations such as those for gold, copper, mineral sands and iron ore were seen as having transferable skills and experience for battery mineral mines.”

READ MORE: Lithium boom now a job promise for WA mining

The long and the short of it is that existing training available in mining and concentrate production are basically adequate for battery mineral mining roles.

Skills shortage set to bite battery industry in key areas

But the report also identified a number of key areas where the battery industry’s potential could hit a real skills shortage, including:

  • Precision refining
  • Mechatronics
  • Automation systems maintenance
  • Artificial intelligence and big data
  • Electrical, mechanical and instrumentation expertise in electric vehicles and battery energy storage systems
  • The safe handling of lithium-ion batteries (for recycling facilities)
  • First responders trained in electrocution first aid.

This means there are clear opportunities for those already with specialist skills and knowledge, or who go out and acquire them over the next few years. The report says those who train and become skilled in the kinds of “industry 4.0 technologies” that are set to revolutionise mining are set to be in high demand.

The report recommends a suite of new vocational skills training programs be created to plug any skills gap before it becomes a major issue. The training opportunities are essential “to build on and maintain Australia’s mining strength (and) support the establishment of the battery minerals refining and processing industry.”

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Dan Hatch
Mining People International