Educating the future generation of mining

The program has grown from 140 students to 700 in just two years.

Gold Industry Group and CoRE Learning Foundation are giving school students the information and on-site experience needed to forge a career in the mining and resources sector.

As the mining and resources industry in Australia grows from strength to strength, concerns have been raised about filling its workforce needs.

A 2021 report commissioned by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy Western Australia (CME), undertaken by independent labour market specialists Pit Crew Consulting, looks at the sector’s workforce requirements in the near term and out to 2025.

Findings of the report show there is currently a significant shortage of workers in the Western Australian mining and resources industries, with the potential for there to be a peak shortage of 33,000 workers.

To combat this potential shortage there needs to be a focus on training and education to meet the needs of the growing mining and resource industry.

Formed in 2018 to educate Western Australian students about the benefits and pathways to a career in the mining and resources sector, the CoRE Learning Foundation is responsible for overseeing the CoRE Learning model.

CoRE Learning Foundation lead Suzy Urbaniak says the program exposes students as young as Year 4 to authentic STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning, which is immersed in resources industry-based contexts.

“In CoRE, we aim to help our youth of today succeed in tomorrow’s world and we have achieved this through our authentic and relevant STEM learning using project-based learning,” Urbaniak says.

“Through our projects we immerse the students in the world around them, helping them understand the science in their daily life and how it applies to their environment.”

Urbaniak says one of the key focuses of the program was establishing a CoRE centre in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia, an area which she believes is still an underexplored mineral province.

The foundation now has footholds in the Pilbara, the Wheatbelt, the Goldfields and the Metropolitan regions of Western Australia.

“For me, as an educator, when students start to talk science with you and are able to relate their learning to their environment, connect the science with their environment, they are engaged and that means they have learned something; something which is meaningful and applies to their everyday life,” Urbaniak says.

“It is critical that through CoRE, students develop a greater appreciation of the resources sector and the future careers associated with it.”

Urbaniak says the sponsorship of Ramelius Resources has enabled the CoRE Learning foundation to begin its journey and expansion within the greater Western Australian Wheatbelt.

Ramelius also supports the foundation’s other CoRE schools attending and visiting their mines. This is a crucial aspect, particularly for upper school students as they consolidate their CoRE Learning with the greater awareness of resources careers, combining the two to develop a career pathway into the industry.

“In CoRE, we have witnessed this process happen time and time again as evidenced by our growing CoRE alumni,” Urbaniak says.

“Ramelius is investing in the future resources talent pipeline of STEM, job aware students, by supporting CoRE in the development of Wheatbelt CoRE.”

Northern Star Resources’ sponsorship enabled the CoRE Learning’s Foundation to begin its expansion program throughout Western Australia.

Students recognise how their STEM learning relates to potential careers in the industry.

Fundamentally, it enabled the foundation to grow from one school to 10, from two to 40 educators and from 140 students to 700 in just two years.

Urbaniak says the CoRE Learning Model’s field trips are unique and iconic. According to CoRE alumni, they are the most memorable real-classroom learning experience.

Visual and hands-on, these field trips create an authentic awareness for students, connecting their learning with real-world applications. On a mine site, students recognise how their STEM learning relates to potential careers in the industry.

Urbaniak says Gold Industry Group members have been integral in the development and growth of the CoRE Expansion Program.

“It is a well-known fact that there is a skills shortage, and the CoRE Learning Foundation through its expansion, is geared to provide a future talent pipeline for the resources sector,” she says.

“Our CoRE alumni are a testament to how the CoRE learning model delivers on this performance success indicator.”

The Gold Industry Group has also been instrumental in promoting the benefits of a career in the gold mining sector with its own educational program.

Its National Gold Education Program provides teachers with access to free, interactive Gold Class Sessions delivered by passionate workers in Australia’s gold industry, as well as exclusive Gold Resources Kits.

Since the Program launched last year, it has reached 800 schools across Australia through the delivery of the Gold Resources Kits and dynamic Gold Class Sessions across the country.

To date, 44 unique Gold Class Sessions were presented at 11 primary and 10 secondary schools across Perth, Kalgoorlie, Kambalda and Norseman. Around 800 Gold Resources Kits were also delivered to primary and secondary schools across all States and Territories, receiving glowing feedback both from teachers and students.

The Gold Industry Group has seen increased traffic through the Gold Jobs Website and student interest has been gauged through the number of questions and obvious enthusiasm from students during the Gold Class Sessions.

Gold Industry Group executive officer Rebecca Johnston says their education program and jobs initiative is inspiring thousands of students across the nation.

“The program is bringing real life scenarios into the classroom, showcasing the diverse careers pathways available and educating about the gold industry’s valuable role in society,” she says.

“We also hope our resources support educators to deliver well-informed lessons that not only explore the significance of gold to our country but also its relevance in an ever-changing technological society.

“Educating the next generation is key to building a future talent pipeline and an informed community.”

Urbaniak says the education of students is about investing in the future of the mining sector and the next generation of its workforce.

“It’s a journey for students and CoRE is a proven pathway which delivers individuals into the resources sector who otherwise would not have considered it,” Urbaniak says.

“So it’s a long-term investment, not a quick fix, and the more financial investment we have the more students we impact, the more students will be aware of a resources career.”

This article also appears in the September 2021 issue of Australian Mining.

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