Ensuring that education and training systems produce cutting-edge outcomes that support industry needs and prepare workers for jobs into the future.
Australians need to have the required skills and training to take up jobs, meet industry needs, and drive productivity for the sector. Australia is a leading education provider, with globally renowned education and training on offer, especially in resources-related courses.
Skills needs are changing. An estimated 77% of Australian mining jobs will be enhanced or redesigned due to technology within the next five years.
Government, industry and academia are working together to align course materials to industry skills needs, actively shaping, iterating and modernising course curricula. The government is also supporting workers to undertake additional training to meet these changes.
STEM as a foundation
STEM skills underpin a variety of roles in the resources sector, both traditional and emerging. They are fundamental for new jobs being created by technology. STEM skills fuel innovation, leading to new discoveries, products and technologies that ensure Australia remains a world leader in the resources sector.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects provide a foundation for many highly paid and in-demand careers. Modelling by the National Skills Commission shows that jobs in STEM-related occupations grew by 12.7% over the five years to May 2020, or 5.7 times higher than the growth rate in non-STEM jobs (2.2%), with 73% of STEM occupations requiring a Bachelor Degree or above qualification.
It is important to provide all Australians with opportunities and support to build STEM skills that will lead to long and prosperous careers. This starts in schools and continues through to higher education and on-the-job learning. For example, the STEM Professionals in Schools, Little Scientist program and Curious Minds (STEM Summer School for Girls) are initiatives that support student participation in STEM-related activities.
The government is also reducing the cost of STEM subjects in universities. By choosing to study in areas of national priority such as STEM, student loans and the time it will take for students to pay back a Higher Education Loan Program is predicted to decrease depending on the field of study.
Government, industry and academia are working together to generate more highly-skilled STEM graduates and connect students with resources related pathways. The Bright Future STEM program, delivered by the Australian Resources and Energy Group, is a national program that engages 9–12 year old students in STEM energy and resources industry experiences and breaks down stereotypes of traditionally male-dominated industries by featuring female role models.
Additionally, the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy is Australia’s largest industry-led school partnership between the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) and the Queensland government under the Gateway to Industry Schools program. Designed to provide a talent pipeline of employees into VET and STEM-related resources careers, the Academy broadens student and teacher knowledge of the resources sector and its career pathways. Supported by 25 companies and the broader QRC membership, the Academy works directly with 77 schools across Queensland and hosts approximately 190 events annually.
Improving availability and access to education
To ensure quality education outcomes for students and industry, resources-related courses must continue to be broadly available, from apprenticeships to postdoctoral degrees. Courses in key resources-related studies, such as mining engineering and geology, support the growth and productivity of the sector. Government and industry are working together to fund courses and incentivise students to study these disciplines so that enrolments increase and courses continue to be offered in Australia.
Resource-related courses and training should also be readily available to students in resources-rich regions. This will support residents to live and work in their communities while also providing a local workforce pipeline for the industry. To assist students, institutions have embraced remote or e-learning models to allow more students access to education, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government and industry offer a range of support and scholarships, while government also provides funding to support universities and training institutions. Government support and incentives for students are improving the accessibility of resources-related education and training.
- The Job-ready Graduates Package announced in 2020 will reduce student contributions for undergraduate courses in key growth areas relevant to resources careers.
- $400 million was announced in June 2020 to increase opportunities for regional and remote students to attend university, and to lift investment in regional university campuses.
- The $1 billion JobTrainer Fund will provide up to 340,700 additional training places that are free or low fee, in areas of identified skills need for job seekers and young people, including school leavers.
- The government is also helping to establish a new School of Mining and Manufacturing in Central Queensland (see case study) to support students in regional areas.
Finally, the government and industry are working together to understand supply and demand factors affecting the future workforce pipeline. The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy will work with Victoria to understand factors influencing youth decision-making regarding pursuing careers in the resources sector. By understanding and addressing these factors, industry, government and educators can inform programs aimed at attracting young people into the sector and promote greater participation.
More training and education in resource-rich regions
Mining is one of Australia’s largest industries in many regional areas. In Queensland, mining employs over 65,000 people and makes up 13.8% of the State’s GDP.
The government is contributing $30 million to establish the Central Queensland University School of Mining and Manufacturing, with new infrastructure being built for the School of Manufacturing in Gladstone and the School of Mining in Rockhampton. The mining sector employs 9,700 people in the Fitzroy region, with more projects expected to create additional jobs in coming years.
The new schools will provide this mining-rich region with access to new facilities and support skills-training, education, research and workforce development needs in demand by local employers.
The courses will support the growing needs and change within industry and introducing emerging technology with specialised skills needed to ensure the students and future employees of central Queensland are skilled and able to support the emerging jobs and industry needs. It will offer workers opportunities to up-skill, looking at cutting-edge and emerging technologies and new research collaborations with the mining industry.
Cutting-edge education and training outcomes
The resources sector relies on a combination of qualifications and skills, specialists and generalists. It is important that the education sector produces the right skills for a career in the resources sector, especially for more specialist occupations like mining engineering. Designing courses to produce accredited, appropriately-skilled graduates is integral to meeting industry workforce demand, boosting innovation and productivity, and maintaining safe mine sites.
The government, industry, and the education sector are working together to keep education and training up to date. It is increasingly important as skil lsets are changing. For example, future resources workers will include more data analysts, robotics engineers, and technology experts, as well as those with soft skills and social license components such as stakeholder management and cultural awareness.
Working with industry to keep courses cuttingedge improves outcomes for students and industry. Partnerships are critical to ensuring graduates leave the training system with skills and experience they need to succeed in the workforce. Government is working to boost partnerships through:
- $585.3 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package, including to enhance the role and leadership of industry in the design and delivery of VET training programs.
- Mining Skills Organisation Pilot being trialled in partnership with the Minerals Council of Australia to provide industry with opportunities to shape the training system to respond to skills needs and trial innovative training solutions.
- $40 million Strategic University Reform Fund that will enhance collaboration between universities and local employers.
- $900 million National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund that will encourage universities and industry partnerships to increase and develop innovative, practical courses that improve the learning experiences for students.
Continuous professional development: upskilling, reskilling and cross-skilling
As skills needs continue to change and evolve, embracing a culture of continuous learning is critical for workers and business alike. A flexible, responsive education system that enables cross-skilling, up-skilling and reskilling will help facilitate this continuous learning culture, as well as ensure that workers are well-positioned now and into the future.
Government and industry recognise the importance of up-skilling and reskilling workers to quickly adapt and respond to changing skills needs. Short courses, including micro-credentials, present a valuable means to respond to this training need. Micro-credentials are increasingly being used by workers and industry to build upon existing knowledge and to learn new targeted competencies to complement their current skill set.
The government has committed $4.3 million over three years to build a national online micro-credentials marketplace. The marketplace aims to strengthen credit recognition, industry relevance of qualifications, and provides an opportunity for industry, workers and students to have more choice in how they access training for the skills they need. The marketplace will provide current and prospective resources employees with a platform that will assist them to understand the courses available. This will further enable up-skilling that can further a career, or reskilling to help people transfer into the sector.
The JobTrainer Fund is also helping to expand access to micro-credentials. Under the JobTrainer Fund, a mix of short courses and full qualifications are being offered to provide flexibility to those
that are looking to undertake some training before re-entering the workforce. Short courses will also enable young people to gain initial skills or try training in an area of interest.
These measures will support workers to cross-skill. Learning common cross-disciplinary skill sets that enable easier transitions between sectors and different resources projects. Having a core foundation in STEM that is common across a range of industries improves employability and maximises career opportunities. Industry and education are also recognising the need for cross-skilling. Cross-disciplinary and double degree courses such as the University of Adelaide’s Bachelor of Engineering (Mining) and Bachelor of Mathematics and Computer Science enable students to specialise in more than one chosen field. This develops transferable skills and knowledge across sectors while meeting the resources sectors demand for more technology-literate mining engineers.
Furthermore, cross-skilling promotes movement within the resources sector, which helps workers to retain employment across the project life-cycle (that is, from exploration to construction to operations to rehabilitation), while projects are in care and maintenance, or as the sector continues to grow into new and emerging commodity markets.