Chile borrows Aussie expertise

DUE to the numerous synergies between Australia and Chile’s mining sectors, a Sydney-based skills council is lending its training framework to help grow the Chilean workforce.
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Lou Caruana

Speaking at the Chilean HR mining conference earlier this month, SkillsDMC chief executive officer Steve McDonald told delegates the company was planning a series of training activities in partnership with Chilean organisations to grow the local mining work force.

It is estimated 234,500 new workers will be required in the Chilean resources and infrastructure industry by 2020.

An additional 192,000 workers will be required for the construction stages of the mining projects.

Australia is facing similar skills shortage concerns, with the Australian Mines and Metal Association estimating demand in the resources sector to create 90,000 new jobs by 2016, for a $A500 billion project pipeline.

The skills shortage is not the only similarity the two countries share.

Australia and Chile are heavily involved in exporting minerals, and both host mining operations in remote locations typically exposed to extreme environmental conditions.

According to SkillsDMC, the key difference is Australia’s high-performing, industry-led vocational education and training framework, deployed in the resources and infrastructure industry.

McDonald told Australia was internationally recognised in terms of the industry leadership of its vocational education and training provisions.

“That leadership is most clearly observed through the development of units of competency, or the description of someone’s capacity to work in the workforce, that are part of the resources and infrastructure industry national training package,” he said.

The idea is for the Chileans to adopt these competencies to their own mine sites.

“SkillsDMC recognises the value in establishing strong links with mining countries globally, promoting the value of global skills competencies as well as sound practices around workforce planning and development,” McDonald said.

Skills DMC was invited by Consejo de Competancias Mineras - a collaboration between the Chilean Ministry for Labour, the Chilean Mining Council and Fundacion Chile – to provide ongoing advice regarding Australia’s best practice for training and developing a mining workforce.

The Consejo de Competancias Mineras, otherwise known as the Mining Skills Council, is seeking to provide educational institutions to train workers for the Chilean mining industry.

SkillsDMC is providing support to Chile for its planning and training framework upon request, through monthly engagement via Skype and its next overseas visit is flagged for mid-2013.

The main areas where Chile is experiencing a skills shortage is predominantly for operating positions, which is not dissimilar to Australia.

The Mining Skills Council said the portfolio of mining projects in Chile was expected to reach about $90 billion dollars in value by 2020, placing the sector at the beginning of an unprecedented expansion phase and challenges to overcome.

The challenges in Chile relate to up-skilling the workforce to capitalise on the opportunities available in international markets, operating mines in rural and remote areas, balancing the needs of local communities and the farming industry located near mining operations and the nation’s geographical barriers surrounding mine sites.

All of these factors were driving the Chilean skills council to establish a more rigorous training framework.

“They are also much clearer now from the discussions that you undertake training for jobs, not training for training,” McDonald said.

Although the collaboration began to solely assist the Mining Skills Council, there are a number of benefits which will flow onto Australia.

“The original starting point is to work with Chile to make sure the Mining Skills Council is the best it can be, just based on not repeating mistakes which were made inevitably in Australia because we were breaching new ground,” McDonald said.

“However, there are clearly benefits for the two countries in terms of greater relationships and understanding in the mining industry, and identifying we operate in a global industry.

“We have to work together to maximise the availability of limited resources, labour and skilled labour.

“If the industries work together, you are getting much greater efficiencies in people’s ability to work across the industries as well as within the industries.”

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