Mining in Australia is complicated, there is no national system, each state and territory owns the minerals in the ground and they all have their own set of rules. Western Australia has a mining Act & Regulations (which is world’s best practice) while other states have their own rules as part of their OH&S Regulations. There is however one rule that is used on Hardrock mines in all states. It has been responsible for the huge improvement in safety since 1995, but it’s also one of the reason there is no formal training at TAFE. It has to do with the training and records that employers are required to keep and do.
The employer has to be able to prove to the mines inspectors, that all the workers on site, have been trained in the jobs that they are currently preforming, no matter who the employer is. Records of this training in the form of tickets/procedures must be kept on site, for the inspectors to check as part of their regular site inspections. Even when hiring experienced staff, it takes days to be passed out on all the equipment and jobs required. The system allows you to recognize their prior learning, but the paper work still has to be done and the training person has to sight and record the new starter doing each aspect of the job.
This one rule, strictly enforced, has led to a huge increase in safety. It has made the mine owners and their representatives directly responsible for what happens on their mine site. I have been on a number of different mines in the late 90’s, that were stopped by the inspectors. These sites stopped for days sometimes, until the training and the records had been completed to the inspector’s satisfaction.
This was the slap in the face the employers needed to understand that they are responsible for everyone on their site and going forward they are going to have to be able to prove that they have done everything possible to keep their employees safe. This meant training and paperwork, lots of paperwork.
Knowing this makes it easy to understand why there is no longer any formal training for miners at TAFE. Why spend lots of money setting up TAFE courses when you can't use the qualification that they issue? It just doesn't work, once you find out you can't use it. This is why most employment ads ask for experience not a formal qualification like other industries. You often see labour hire companies new to the industry, ask for a formal qualification in their ads. New starters to the industry often make this mistake too, believing that there must be formal qualifications for the industry.
But the TAFE system says there are courses when you do a search?
Yes, if you do a search you will find the outlines of the certificate 2-4 in underground operations, there are lots of units listed. The problem is trying to find a RTO that will provide a course for you to do. The last TAFE to run a course I know of was in Bendigo Victoria, that stopped years ago. So why are there so many units but no courses? Years ago a couple of the larger underground contractor companies turned their training departments into RTO’s. In the hope of being able to issue just one ticket that covers many mines. The idea was to turn each procedure into a unit and get the staff to sit each unit. That way their staff wouldn’t have to fill out all the paper work and do the training required each time they changed sites. They spent millions putting the new system in place, then the mines inspectors in each state said, NO. We like the system just the way it is, thank you very much. In their opinion requiring each mine site to have its own set of paperwork is a key part of the improved safety in the Australian Hardrock mining industry. It does make the people running the mine very accountable, it has improved safety and I can understand why they said no, don't mess with something that is working really well.
This means that even though there are many units, the mining companies aren’t going to share. So no one is going to be putting a course together anytime soon. The other problem with TAFE is the time taken to complete a course. All the courses that have been run in the past were 6months plus, for information that most companies expect to be presented in a week. This is why formal qualifications are just seen as an expense. That employers aren’t going to buy into, not when they have to put every new employee, no matter how experienced, though all the paper work and training, no exceptions, every time they hire someone.
The good news is that a group of WA shift bosses in 2009 saw that there is never going to be a new starters course written with TAFE, so they sat down and wrote a course designed for new starters to get up to speed. The information is what a shift boss would want you to know before going underground on their crew. In 2015 these courses where put online and they now make up an important part of the pathway I use to get new starters into the industry. The 2 packages I offer are designed to give a person the best start possible to their mining career and include how to make your resume mining friendly. “Do it yourself” cost $270 and “Workready” is my full service package for $520, this includes me redoing your resume for you, one on one interview prep and testing of your new mining knowledge. You can check out the course in the video below or if you want more information, follow the links or leave a message in the sections provided.
Until next time
The Mining Coach