Mining needs to bring sexy back

THE leaders of two of Australia’s largest mid-tier miners have warned that drastic action is needed to lure brilliant minds to the mining sector.
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Peter Bradford

Kristie Batten

Evolution Mining executive chairman Jake Klein and Independence Group managing director Peter Bradford told separate events in Perth last week that a major skills shortage was looming for the industry.

Speaking at the WA Mining Club on Thursday, Klein said his two young adult children didn’t view the mining sector as cool.

“We desperately need to make mining an attractive career option for young people again – we need to compete with the allure of the Facebooks and Googles to attract and retain the best and brightest talent back to our industry – the University of Western Australia is forecasting only eight students will graduate as mining engineers in 2018,” he said.

“In 2017 enrolment in mining engineering at the University of New South Wales was also just eight, the lowest level in 40 years.”

Bradford echoed those concerns a day later at a CEDA event in Perth, saying that while there were 230 fourth year mining engineering students Australia-wide, there were just 60 second-year students.

“That’s a lot of pain coming for the industry,” he said.

“Mining is just as sexy as Google or Facebook – take that message to highschools.”

Bradford added that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s “innovation nation” push came across as anti-mining.

“Let’s think about how we can use innovation to get our sexy back,” he said.

Earlier this month, Rio Tinto agreed to invest up to A$2 million in WA to help develop a new mining curriculum to support the jobs of the future, and invited other industry partners to join the initiative.

Rio will work with the WA government and South Metropolitan TAFE to prepare students for opportunities created by advances in technology and innovation, with new courses likely in the areas of robotics, data analytics and digital inclusion education.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA has also established initiatives to ensure the sector’s future workforce had the flexibility and skills to adapt and respond to a more complex operating environment.