CQU tackling skills shortage

To develop immediate tertiary and further education solutions to mining skills shortages, Central Queensland University has been working with the Queensland Resources Council and a number of mining companies to implement and support work integrated learning.

From this co-ordinated effort CQU has developed three Associate Degree programs that allow students to work and study at the same time (see table for program information).

All the mining programs offered by the University address technical engineering skills.

Two of the programs (Associate Degree of Engineering and the Associate Degree of Mine Operations Management) incorporate mining industry competencies to satisfy the hands-on elements of working at a minesite.

The third program (Associate Degree of Mine Technology) provides a student with a solid foundation in mining techniques.

Companies that currently have students enrolled into one of the three programs offered by CQU include, Anglo Coal Australia, BMA, Magotteaux, Roche Mining, Rio Tinto, Xstrata and Leigh Creek.

Each company has a differing interest in their employees’ studies ranging from five year contracts with the promise of paid tuition fees to students studying on their own to advance their careers in the mining sector.

Former Anglo Coal Australia chief mining engineer, open cut, Warren Seib, said he had been concerned that with the developing resources boom there were too few competent and skilled mining professional to service the industry’s needs.

Working for Anglo Coal Australia at the time, Seib, co-ordinated a pilot program for the Associate Degree of Engineering (Mining – surface) which commenced in 2005.

“CQU have real experience in the area of workplace learning. The staff is enthusiastic, dedicated and very personable. This institution is ideally placed to build on its growing reputation with industry throughout Australia,” Seib said.

Working for BMA Saraji mine in the Bowen Basin, Mischa Upton, 30, was one of the first students to take on this new strategy in conjunction with his mine site.

Starting his studies in January 2006, Upton is 18 months into the Associate Degree of Mine Technology (Mining).

“I’m a mine planning cadet, currently working in short term planning for draglines” Upton said.

“When I started the cadetship program there were two avenues of entry into the tech services department of a mine. The first was through a four-year university course and then a graduates program, or on the job learning as a cadetship.”

“The role was originally designed to assist engineers, with guidance from a senior engineer” explained Upton, “but the more I learnt about my role, the more support I was able to provide to the engineers.

“The actual study material and role at work don’t always cross over; this term I’m studying Resource Geology and Mining and Metallurgy which is very relevant. The pace is good because you study two subjects a term, plus learn on the job. There is not much room for a hobby though.”

Utilising the programs from another angle is Stuart Hudson, 41, who completed his TAFE deputy training in 1999.

As a supervisor for BMA Broadmeadow underground coal mine, Hudson undertakes statutory inspections, and plans and co-ordinates activities of the long wall maintenance crew.

Hudson is currently enrolled at CQU in the Associated Degree of Mine Operations Management.

The mix of statutory competencies and University courses in this program entitles a student to sit for the first class miner manager’s exam.

The engineering-based University courses will provide students with strong problem identification and resolution skills as well as greater awareness of mine operation standards and codes of practice.

According to Hudson, the advantage of the program he is studying is its acknowledgment of prior study. Many of the competencies he completed in 1999 will be accepted into the Associate Degree of Mine Operations Management.

At the same time the University courses he completes will provide him with the knowledge to take on daily engineering roles as well as be credited to a Bachelor of Engineering program should he choose to progress in this direction in his mining career.

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