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AREEA executive speaks on skills transition, women at Skilling Australia Summit

SPEAKING today at the 8th Annual Skilling Australia Summit, AREEA executive director of industry services, Tara Diamond, outlined the employment and skills implications of the resource industry’s emerging ‘production boom’ and promoted some of the industry’s best practice HR and gender diversity initiatives.

While the role of AREEA and the Australian Women in Resources Alliance (AWRA) in increasing female participation in the resources sector was a key presentation topic, Ms Diamond first explained the shifting dynamics of the industry’s project and skills landscape.

“Understanding the complex skills needs of the resource sector requires an understanding of what the ‘resources boom’ really means and how our nation is managing the transition into a more sustainable long-term production and export phase,” Ms Diamond today told the Skilling Australia Summit in her presentation “Skilling Australian resources through industry transition”.

“The past decade or so has not really seen a ‘mining boom’, but rather a ‘construction boom’ driven by the sheer volume of unprecedented investment into resource new projects and existing mine expansions.

“It is the transition into this final and longer-term project phase – the production phase – of Australia’s new mega-resources projects where we are now seeing a great shift in our labour force trends and skills demand.

“As an industry and as a nation, we are left with a two-part challenge.

“The first is managing the large decline in the number of employment opportunities in resource industry construction work, driven by the sudden decease in new project investment and cancellation of some key mega-projects in that second wave.

“The second, and clearly the biggest skilling challenge for our industry in the short term, is preparing for our technical production workforce to grow by 57% in just four years. Australia now suddenly requires thousands of skilled production personnel to operate projects never before seen in this country, and the question is how prepared are we.”

In the first part of her presentation, in which she provided a holistic industry overview, Ms Diamond also outlined a number of key cancelled major projects and detailed AREEA’s advocacy work and policy priorities for attracting further new project investment in Australia.

“These areas include:

  • Greater focus on industry policy areas such as stimulating the exploration sector.
  • Removing unnecessary barriers to competing at our best for global investment, such as the carbon and mining taxes which have contributed to a perceived increased sovereign risk.
  • Restoring some stability and practicality to Australia’s workplace laws, particularly in areas that directly affect the productivity, approval times and labour force flexibility for major resource projects.

“And of course, enterprise will also need to play its part by pursuing efficiency, building internal capacity, finding enterprise-level productivity gains and continuing to engage with global best practices and Australian-driven innovation,” she said.

In the second part of her presentation, Ms Diamond outlined the important role of increased female participation in meeting the industry’s future skills needs. She outlined best practice examples across various resources sub-sector, including coal mining, construction, oil and maritime.

“All stakeholders to this skilling process moved on from analysing ‘why’ we should focus on female participation rates many years ago. The focus is now on ‘how’,” Ms Diamond said.

“We have seen some employers truly recognise the need to attract greater diversity and skills in order to remain competitive, thus bringing about some of the most innovative and progressive workforce diversity strategies ever seen in Australia.

“Anglo American saw their existing approach to diversity and inclusion as a competitive advantage in sourcing talent for its Central Queensland coal mines.

“Thiess has embarked on a number of complementary initiatives to increase and promote employment opportunities to women in non traditional roles.

“The Caltex BabyCare initiative was developed and launched in late 2012 after an internal review found that turnover was more prevalent in the 12 months after women returned to work, compared to women failing to return from maternity leave.

“(And) Farstad Shipping became the first organisation to complete the Australian Women in Resources Alliance Recognised Program.”

The key initiatives and successes of the Australian Women in Resources Alliance (AWRA) were also detailed to strong audience reception.

Tara Diamond’s presentation to the 8th Annual Skilling Australia Summit is just one of a number of public speaking engagements AREEA executives undertake each year to promote the work of AREEA and its members in various workforce areas. Through this weekly News Update, AREEA will endeavour to make these presentations highly available for our members.

To read Tara Diamond’s presentation to the Skilling Australia Summit, click here.

To view the accompanying slides, click here.

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