Certainly that is the approach Humanis chairman Craig Ransley is prepared to head down.
“The problem for us is finding talent,” he said. “We’ve got to start fostering and training kids out of school.
“We have to target the unskilled and untrained people.”
Ransley’s company has ties with major coal producers on Australia’s east coast.
The straight-talking former diesel fitter has seen how mines are competing with each other to attract skilled equipment operators.
The problem is there are only a finite number of them to go around.
Take Rio Tinto in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. Back in 2010 it was using about 270 trucks to shift the earth on its iron ore operations.
As it heads towards its 330 million tonnes per annum plus expansion target it will need to add another 135.
That is at something like another 270 drivers, assuming they will be operating 12 hour shifts and nothing breaks.
That is just trucks. At Rio Tinto. In the Pilbara. What about all the other earthmoving equipment needed there?
What about all the other mines going through expansions around Australia?
That is a lot of extra workers.
As RMS Training & Recruitment group general manager Jan Norberger points out, there is only so much mines can do to poach staff from other operations – a bit of tinkering at the edges of the accommodation quality and rostering – before it comes down to pay.
Pay rates can only go so much higher too.
Which comes back to the point of finding the untrained and turning them into operators for the mining sector.
Humanis’ recently acquired division ResCo puts 200 to 250 trainees through Rio Tinto’s coal operations each year.
“We probably have a 70 per cent success rate,” Ransley said.
Both Ransley and Norberger are believers in the power of equipment simulators to help them in this task.
Ransley is a firm believer in the efficacy of Immersive Technologies’ simulator offerings while Norberger is a 5DT man.
However, Ford-Holdenesque arguments aside, they agree such simulators offer great hope in identifying future equipment operating talent and helping to develop it.
“We need to get simulators to non-mining areas so we can train people there how to operate equipment and identify whether they have the appropriate hand-eye coordination or not,” Ransley said.
“You can jump on a simulator in Adelaide and be driving in a pit in the Hunter Valley.”
Ransley argues that equipment simulators also can help draw school leavers to the mining sector. At least to the point of getting them to consider a career in it.
“Putting kids straight out of school into a simulator gives them a little bit of sizzle,” he said.
Ransley also has a message for the powers-that-be in the education departments around Australia – stop trying to get students to stick around until year 12.
“We have to change the mindset,” he said. “I’m a fitter. I left school at 15. Missing years 11 and 12 didn’t do me any harm.”
First published yesterday in the Mine Supply column of sister publication MiningNews.net.