The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission in response to the Expert Panel on Apprenticeships for the 21st Century’s Final Report: ‘A shared responsibility’, (the Report) January 2011.

The MCA represents Australia’s exploration, mining and minerals processing industry, nationally and internationally, in its contribution to sustainable development and society. MCA member companies produce more than 85 per cent of Australia’s annual mineral output.

1.1    The Minerals Industry
The resources industry contributed 9.4 per cent of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2009- 10, and contributed $138B or 54 per cent of Australia’s export revenues in 2009-101

The minerals industry is a source of highly skilled, well paid employment in regional and remote areas of Australia. Employment in the minerals industry is at record levels. Labour force figures report employment in the minerals industry at 194,000 in February 2011 (ABS mining data net of oil and gas), an increase of 18 per cent from the peak employment recorded in November 2008, just prior to the GFC. In the 12 months to February 2011, employment in the minerals industry grew by 23 per cent and further strong growth is forecast. In contrast, national employment grew by around 3 per cent over the same period.

The final report of the Government’s National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce forecast that there will be a peak of 45,000 new construction jobs on resource projects in both 2012 and 2013 and an additional 61,500 new mining sector operational jobs are expected by 20152. The report forecast shortfalls of 36,000 tradespeople, 1,700 mining engineers and 3,000 geoscientists over next five years.

Overall, the minerals industry has suffered from skills shortages (lack of qualified tradespeople, professionals, and experienced operators). Access to skilled human capital has been a significant capacity constraint for the industry and minerals industry employers continue to experience difficulty in recruiting sufficient numbers of appropriately skilled workers in both mining specific and traditional trades such as fitters, electricians and diesel mechanics.

The critical shortages of tradespeople projected by the National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce cannot be met by relying on the current traditional training regime alone to train sufficient apprentices to meet the demand. Innovation to encourage alternative approaches is required.

1.2.    Minerals Industry Training
The minerals industry continues to make a substantial investment in Vocational Education and Training (VET); with figures indicating that on average the industry spends three times the national average per employee on training. Whilst the vast majority of the minerals industry’s VET activity is privately funded; the majority of apprenticeship training for the industry is delivered under government funded programs.

The minerals industry has recently been characterised as failing to deliver its ‘fair share’ of apprentice training. However, recent National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) data shows that in the September quarter 2010 the industry had 9,595 apprentices and trainees in training, up 32.6 per cent over the figure for the same period in 2008. That is, close to 50 apprentices and trainees per 1,000 employees; greater than the national average. Figure 1 below shows the continuing upward trend in apprentice/trainee numbers in the industry. Numbers of apprentices in training for traditional trades is also increasing, with a total of 4,126 reported for the September 2010 quarter.

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