Indigenous mining internships

While mining is often lambasted for its commitment to training few of its detractors take time to talk to industry interns like Jesse Vincent.

Working with Leighton Contractors, Vincent is a young mining engineering student who scored a placement through the Indigenous-focused Career Trackers program.

Designed to create internship opportunities culminating in a career for Indigenous students, Career Trackers is expanding its work in the mining industry to capitalise on the skills shortage and demand from students.

For interested students the way the program worked out for Vincent was after a Career Trackers visit to his university campus.

As the latest recruit Vincent is juggling university life with practical experience at Leighton, with the end-game a full time position in the mining industry. Vincent told Australian Mining that while not without its difficulties, mining had been an exciting industry to experience first hand.

"I did 12 weeks on a mine site last year from November as part of an agreement with Career Trackers and Leighton Contractors," he said.

Vincent counted the sheer size of the industry and diversity of skills required as one of the best parts of getting a practical start in mining.

"With mining engineering there’s a lot of different aspects of the industry you need to be exposed to and I like that diversity," he said.

"You need to know about drill and blast, trucks and transport, maintenance, and lots more."

"That’s one thing I like about it, there’re different aspects to the work and there’s always something else you can learn."

While he didn’t always have an ambition for mining Vincent traces his interest in the industry to his childhood.

"There’s a fair bit of influence from when I was younger and growing up in a mining town," he said.

"My father worked in the mines for 20 years and one of my older brothers worked in the industry as well."

"I didn’t see mining so much as a career avenue till I started to do a bit of work in the industry and gain a bit more knowledge."

Training commitment

Having just come back from working at Newcrest’s underground Telfer gold mine in the Pilbara Vincent told Australian Mining the variety of work sites on offer around Australia was also one of the most appealing aspects of the work.

As an Indigenous Australian taking part in a training initiative, Vincent gave a positive appraisal of the industry’s commitment to training.  

"The Indigenous programs they’ve got in the mining industry are really good. If you choose they can send you to Aboriginal communities around Australia and you can have the chance to work within those areas and help them out."

"You also get a different perspective around those isolated areas."

Vincent said these industry employment initiatives, particularly for Indigenous Australians, were of benefit both to mining companies and the public in general.

"I think they should be valued," he said.

"Indigenous heritage is Australia’s cultural background and these programs are one way of acknowledging that," Vincent explained to Australian Mining.

"It also gives a great employment opportunity to Indigenous Australians."

"They’re really good ideas and should be supported by all companies."

Vincent also said he would encourage all Indigenous Australians to get involved with similar employment programs if they had the chance.

"I’d definitely recommend it," he said.

"From the moment I sat down with Career Trackers to the experience of going over to Perth with Leighton Contractors, it’s all been positive.

"It’s been a really good experience for me and it’s a great opportunity if people can get involved."

New challenges

Vincent was hard pressed to recount any bad experiences from his work with Leighton and Career Trackers, but marked the fly-in fly-out lifestyle at Telfer as one of the biggest challenges, with the flights across the country creatting a unique problem.

Living and studying in New South Wales, the potential of working at Telfer meant racking up some serious frequent flyer points.

But part of the Career Trackers package meant Vincent was able to stay with friends in Perth and cut down on the distance, though not removing it completely.

Vincent has a number of practical placements left, not always at Telfer but always with Leighton, until he finishes his degree.

And if it all works out he should land himself a mining job with Leighton after graduating.

"I’d like to stay as an employee with Leighton Contractors and develop my career with them," he told Australian Mining.

"I’d also like to go back to Career Trackers after the cadetship as an alumnus and talk to students coming through their degrees."

"I’d like to share this experience with them and keep building that community and program."


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