As a self confessed ‘hands-on’ learner, Blackwater High School student Kaitlyn Tobane jumped at the chance to spend five, twelve hour days, working in a simulated industrial environment.
The ‘on-the-job-experience’ that Kaitlyn and many fellow students took part in, was the annual ‘Make it now in Trade’ (MINT) camp, staged by the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy.
“I’m a ‘get out there and get on with it’ sort of person, and I learn best when I am working with my hands” she said.
The MINT camp, held in the town of Dysart, in the Bowen Basin coal mining region of Queensland, is a partnership program supported by the Queensland State Government, Queensland Minerals Council and commercial supporters including BMA (BHP Mitsubishi Alliance). It attracts students from around the coal mining region, and offers an opportunity for them to gain a working understanding of the careers on offer in the minerals and energy industries. “It’s great because you get to experience what it’s really like to go to work and that helps you make better informed decisions about what career and subject choices you need to make.
Kaitlyn did the MINT camp in 2016 and today is a first year apprentice electrician at the BHP coal mine in Blackwater.
“My dad is a mining machine operator, my sister is also a second year apprentice auto electrician and my brother is a tyre fitter for the Blackwater Coal Mine. I guess it is not surprising that I was attracted to mining” she said.
18 year old Kaitlyn finished high school and went straight into her apprenticeship with BHP, choosing the electrical field because of her experience at the MINT camp, two years earlier. “I was really surprised after doing the MINT week, because it made me realise there is a lot more electrical work on a mine site than I thought there would be. It was a real eye opener about the opportunities and now, even in my first year, I get to work on the largest pieces of machinery in the coal mine, like the draglines and shovels."
To take part in the one week simulated industrial environment of the MINT camp, students have to carry out the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy’s Apprentice Aptitude Test Training Program. The program gives them exposure to the types of questions they will be confronted with when they experience an apprenticeship or traineeship short listing process. At the MINT camp students complete trade-based challenges, working side-by-side with tradespeople and other apprentices, to complete their projects. Students get experience in orientation, safety induction, fabrication, mechanical and electrical training, along with industry tours to mine sites and workshops.
“Growing up in a small town like Blackwater, you are exposed to lots of aspects of mining so I was always interested in the industry. But I thought it would be interesting to experience what it was like first hand. “Because I learn best by being shown and then doing something, MINT really appealed to me, and helped me understand which field I wanted to aim for and what I needed to do to get there" she said. "Plus it sends a great message to a potential employer like BHP.”
Kaitlyn said that growing up in Blackwater, the site of one of six coal mines in the area, she knew first-hand how much BHP has done in support of the town and her school. “I was very happy to become a part of it, because I know what the company stands for and the standards it has and so I am proud to work for BHP.