The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the expert review of Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) system.
This submission has been prepared in consultation with industry and is endorsed by the NSW Minerals Council, Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia and the Queensland Resources Council.
Mining in Australia is a sophisticated and technologically advanced enterprise that requires a highly skilled and adaptable workforce. New capabilities and skills are needed and there are opportunities to attract a broader range of people to the industry. This will require adjustments to tertiary level - higher education and the vocational education and training - landscape and to a lesser extent, primary and secondary education.
The future minerals workforce will be more diverse, geographically distributed and digitally connected. It will require broad ranging skills and competencies using both accredited and non-accredited training. Its productivity will be bolstered by new tools of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence.
Productivity supports prosperity by ensuring a more efficient allocation of labour and capital. Renewing productivity growth requires the application of new ideas on how work is done and the tools that can be deployed. The imperative of safety is a further driver. The design of the mining workplace is evolving to meet this reality. To embrace these workplace design challenges, and thus maintain Australia’s competitive advantage in mining, new skills are required, enhancing and augmenting those of the existing workforce and providing opportunities for new workers. Flexible labour markets expand the range of these new opportunities.
The nation’s most pressing challenge is creating the education, training and workplace framework that provides the skills, capability and flexibility to maintain and enhance Australia’s international competitive advantage. This is especially important for the minerals industry. In securing the future minerals workforce, government will need to work closely with industry to ensure that accredited training is responsive to industry needs and that the broader education and training landscape is flexible, varied and sustainable.
An evolving workforce, meaningfully connected and supported to learn, grow and work with purpose is a key industry priority. The newly established MCA Workforce and Innovation Committee are progressing the workforce and innovation agenda through the lens of supply, demand, and pathways; highlighting and reimaging the industry’s capabilities to innovate, engage and leverage diversity.
The MCA supports the reforms advanced by Resources 2030 Taskforce and the Productivity Commission to generate a high-quality education system that promotes skills formation and prepares students for technology adoption, use and diffusion, including:
- Developing a more coordinated national tertiary curriculum for earth sciences and resources sector qualifications at vocational education and training (VET) and higher education levels
- Itroducing a more graduated system of student assessment to signal to employers the level of proficiency in VET
- Developing an objective VET accreditation system that signals the quality of skills, regardless of how they are acquired, to encourage the growth and acceptance of new models of skills formation that are faster, cheaper and more flexible
- Improving student outcomes by providing affordable, high quality university education with qualifications that are relevant to labour market needs
- Mapping jobs of the future and skills gaps.
The MCA further recommends:
- Government does not put blanket requirements on skills funding as part of licencing or other regulatory arrangements
- Allocating funds from the Skilling Australians Fund proportionally to each industry’s use of the temporary skilled migration program Implementing and evaluating pilot programs to test models, interventions and initiatives
- Re-positioning VET as a valid pathway to securing the right skills for the changing nature of work and skills
- Deliver a campaign to increase awareness and understanding of the offerings and establishing a stronger narrative on the broader post-secondary education eco-system.
The compatibility of skills and capabilities needed for the future minerals workforce means that implementation of these policy recommendations will have economic and social benefits.