Success of WA’s mining future reliant on uptake of STEM subjects

A report released today by the Federal Government has highlighted the threat of a future skills shortage in the resources sector, with an increasing mismatch between industry needs and the skills being taught at universities and by vocational education providers.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia’s chief executive Paul Everingham said the report by the Resources 2030 Taskforce reflected the challenges being faced by companies operating in WA to attract the skilled workforce needed to build the resources sector of the future.

Mr Everingham said with the gap most prevalent in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, it was imperative for Governments to work with industry to ensure educational institutions produced students with the right skills for Australia’s future workforce.

“The report has reaffirmed what CME has been hearing from members, in that demand for mining engineers, geologists and drillers continues to rise,” he said.

“The advance towards automation, robotics and artificial intelligence is compounding the problem, with courses not keeping pace with the skills and knowledge needed for the future and low university enrolments in sector-specific courses.

“Earlier this year, CME formed a taskforce to develop strategies to combat this skills gap, which is looking at ways to encourage more young people to study resource-related disciplines, as well as re-skilling and better support current employees.”

Mr Everingham welcomed the report’s finding that the future success of Australia’s resources sector relied largely on working smarter, safer, cleaner and more efficiently, with a key enabler of success being the ability to harness new innovations and technologies, such as the automation of drilling, excavation and truck and rail networks.

“This supports the research conducted by CME earlier this year in its 2018-2028 Resources Sector Outlook, which found increased use of automation, artificial intelligence and the deployment of advanced extraction techniques had the potential to improve the safety, productivity and competitiveness of the sector over the coming decade,” he said.

Other key findings from the Resources 2030 Taskforce included:
  • the resources and mining services sectors are Australia’s strongest economic performers, underpinning the nation’s high standards of living;
  • in 2016–17, Australia’s top 10 exports included iron ore and concentrates, metallurgical and thermal coal, natural gas, gold, aluminium ore and concentrates, and crude petroleum, representing 46 per cent of goods and services exports;
  • the sector is a strong employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, making up the highest proportion of any Australian industry. In mining, Indigenous employment grew 22.4 per cent between 2011 and 2016.