How a VET specialist can help you kick-start a
long-term mining career
Did you know that more and more people are opting for the Vocational Education and Training (VET) method of gaining relevant skills in the mining and resource sector? Everyone has at some stage been told of the skills shortage in Australia, especially the lack of trained mining professionals who have the right mindset. The mining industry has endured a massive reality shift over the last 12-18 months as the industry scales back construction investment and now sets its sights on competing in a tightening global market.
What is Vocational Education and Training?
Vocational Education and Training (VET) enables students to gain qualifications and specific skills to help them in the workplace; for various types of employment across many industries and not just mining. Vocational Education and Training providers can include technical and further education (TAFE) institutes, private providers, industry skill centres, and enterprise training providers. Did you also know that various universities and schools in Australia also provide Vocational Education and Training? The VET system is provided through a network of Australian state and territory governments and the Federal government. The high levels of compliance and auditing in the VET sector is critical to maintain standards. It is also critical to the Australian economy because the VET program develops a skilled and competent workforce that contributes to the development of the country.
Vocational education and training in the mining sector?
Imagine you were working in a highly specialised job running a Coal Handling Preparation Plant on a remote mine site in the Pilbara. Everything is going well and you have a team of people who have been trained to exacting standards. They know their job, they know about safety and risk in the workplace and practice this every single minute of the day. There have been no injuries on site for as long as anyone can remember and the whole team work well as a unit. You turn up for work the next week and there is a new crew waiting to start. These workers have literally come in off the street and have been given jobs. They’ve been given jobs because there is a push to ramp up production, no matter what! This new crew come from all sorts of backgrounds, they have no idea about the mining industry, no concept of SOP’s, risk assessment, PPE, mine site policy and induction, JSA’s and safety is the last thing on their mind. You can imagine the chaos that would unravel. Everyone working on that mine site would be in danger. The accident rate would be compromised and the occurrence of near misses would rise dramatically. Imagine your son, or your father and even your wife working on this mine site and being exposed to this threat? It would not make you rest easy at night that’s for sure. Despite what you may think, that example is not fiction, it used to happen right across the industry, especially in Western Australia where the boom in iron ore mining sent armies of unskilled ‘newbies’ into remote mining operations. This caused a lot of issues for mining companies and even today, there are still fatalities and accidents occurring in WA mining. Something had to change….
Enter the VET system
So how does Vocational Education and Training factor into building and sustaining a better mining and resource industry in Australia? Learn more about the Vocational education and training framework by downloading the PDF which was commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia, 2013. The study was commissioned to address the wide-spread notion within the mining sector that the number of trainees and apprentices was underreported. One of the insights gained from the study found that the minerals sector spent just over $1.1 billion in recent yeas on training, equivalent to about 5.5 percent of total payroll. Almost 98 percent of this training expenditure is industry-funded. Overall, apprentices and trainees make up around 5 percent of the mining workforce.
I want a mining job!
Many people want to establish themselves in the mining industry as the wages are generally higher than other industries and everyone knows this. Despite the glamour that has been tagged on to FIFO jobs with resort style accommodation and 5 star catering, mining still remains a difficult and demanding industry for many workers. Getting a mining job is not as simple as it once was – let’s face up to that reality. Each state in Australia has an obligation to manage the whole cycle of training and induction of new employees into a wide variety of industries. Each one has its own set of challenges and work practices which require skilled operators to perform the tasks related to that industry.
Australian mining needs skilled, trained people
The mining and resource sector now faces a future where it must resource its own skilled tradespeople from within Australia. The Queensland Resources Council earlier this year was quite vocal about the Federal Budget by stating it was a ‘mixed bag’ of positive and negative measures for the mining industry. The Resources Council’s CEO Michael Roche said a HECS-style loan scheme for people studying a trade could improve the take-up of apprenticeships across the industry. The Council expressed their pleasure to see a very important reform, which is extending the Commonwealth’s concessional loans scheme to mining trades training. The scheme is much like that of other learning centres where student who are undertaking further studies can get access to government loans to finance their university and diploma studies. Payment of these loans is subject to an earning cap when they start paid work, although eventually this loan must be paid back to the Australian government.
Training, compliance and audit
One of the biggest features of the VET system is how it is regulated. Training providers are checked on a regular basis by the Australian government via its regulatory body called the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). People enrolling in mining courses such as the Standard 11 or Supervisor course or even a course that teaches how to drive a dump truck are assured of the highest quality training when they engage a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) to deliver their training. RTO’s have a tough job on their hands to maintain the standards of training as dictated by the Australian government. You may think that when you take a course, you just turn up, do the course and leave – but there is a lot more to it than that. Before a training course can be delivered it must pass strict compliance reviews and be certified as correct by ASQA. Each year, RTO’s who have training courses on ‘scope’, will endure a thorough audit by ASQA, whose job it is to maintain the high standards of training are met – every time. Should a training provider not meet the requirements of an ASQA audit, then that RTO can be ‘put on notice’ until the standards are met. Students who undertake training courses with a recognised training provider can also check the validity of a provider on an Australia government website at www.training.gov.au which is managed by the Department of Industry and is the National Register for Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Australia This comprehensive website provides information on Nationally Recognised Training (NRT) which has information on:
- Training packages
- Units of competency
- Accredited courses
- Skill sets
The entire process of delivering Vocational Education and Training in Australia as you can see is highly regulated. The entire framework for training.gov.au is maintained by Industry Skills Councils (ISCs) and Auto Skills Australia. So you can see that when it comes to choosing a reputable training provider to deliver the right training to assist in career development, there is a lot more going on than you realise. Registered Training Organisations are continually under the Australian government spotlight to provide quality training and to see it is maintained through the effective regulation of providers and accredited courses to ensure their training meets the needs of industry. RTO’s have many compliance obligations and must report on every student who has completed a course. These records are held by ASQA and can be used as a key performance indicator when it comes to an audit of the training provider. Training providers who deliver sub-standard training are subject to regulatory action as these providers pose the greatest risk to the quality of Australia’s vocational education and training sector.
Choosing a training provider
When looking for training providers in the mining and resource sector, always look for providers who have a good track record and have been recommended on the www.training.gov.au website. Successful careers have been developed after individuals have enrolled in training courses that have been ASQA audited and have been given favourable compliance notices. Choose a training provider based on their track record, read their testimonials and seek reviews of their performance in social media too. When it comes to mining training the VET system is there to help and assist motivated people to develop new careers in the mining and resource sector.
Further education should be a priority for anyone who is considering a long-term career. Employment methods have changed dramatically over the last few years with more changes to come – stay ahead of the rest and keep education at the top of your list. Learn about the Australian mining industry each week through iMINCO Project News. The weekly email newsletter is a collection of mining and resource sector information to assist job-seekers find the best route into the sector. There are no fees to pay, it’s completely free and it’s easy to stop the emails coming if you choose to do so. No risk, nothing to pay and completely secure and private. Your email address privacy is our utmost concern. Try iMINCO Project News today.