24 August 2021
National Skills Week launch - Laura Tyler, Chief Technical Officer - Tuesday, 24 August 2021
I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land from which I present today. I am joining you from the traditional Country of the Kaurna people of Adelaide and the Adelaide Plains. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
My name is Laura Tyler and I am the Chief Technical Officer at BHP. My portfolio includes Performance and Improvement, Technology, the Centres of Excellence for Maintenance, Engineering, Resources and Projects, Global Health Safety and Environment, and the Metals Exploration team.
My global team is filled with scientists, engineers, mathematicians, planners and project specialists. We develop, build and execute ideas, plans and schedules in partnership with maintainers, operators, and technicians to provide safe reliable operations and deliver quality projects. We also seek to deliver the future assets through exploration and joint ventures.
Given how important it is to attract and retain talent in our business, I am proud BHP is major sponsor of National Skills Week 2021. And it gives me great pleasure to share some of the work BHP is doing with jobs, skills, and training.
POST COVID RECOVERY
The work we do to develop job-ready skills is always important, but as Australia seeks to chart a course for a strong and sustained economic recovery after COVID 19, it is critical we work together to build skills and capabilities for the resources industry and beyond, across all trades and throughout the economy.
This is why BHP has partnered with National Skills Week this year – we recognise our role in building a healthy and thriving society based on meaningful work with home-grown skills.
Today I will outline a couple of the initiatives we have underway, and highlight a couple of other areas where we believe we need to continue to develop a response.
VITAL RESOURCES FUND
BHP is a major contributor to the Australian national economy. We directly employ or contract around 45,000 people in this country to help us meet our purpose; to bring people and resources together to build a better world.
In just over 12 months, BHP contributed to over 71 initiatives or organisations through our Vital Resources Fund. That involved investments that totalled AU$50 million.
An example is in Queensland where we worked with Vanguard Health to set up and service two Fever Clinics in Moranbah and Proserpine that offer walk-in, drive-in, telehealth and regional outreach facilities. This removes some of the burden on public health facilities.
We also provided employment for 1500 Australian workers across the country displaced from their jobs by COVID-19. Those people are now delivering support services to keep our operational teams safe and healthy. It has also given them a new source of income, and experience working with the resources industry.
FUTURE OF MINING & FUTURE FIT ACADEMY
We are an industry that offers a diverse range of rewarding career opportunities that suits any passion or skill set. But it is not always easy to gain the skills to get in the door.
In the last 12 months BHP opened two industry leading FutureFit Academies to train the next generation of miners and tradespeople to power our industry.
Located in Mackay Queensland and Welshpool, Western Australia, our FutureFit national training program is designed to create exciting career pathways into the mining sector. We offer fast-tracked mining apprenticeships and traineeships, backed by nationally recognised curricula.
To date, more than 400 people have started their career in BHP through the FutureFit pathway.
And last October we announced an additional 2500 apprenticeship places in those Academies. This will help develop Australia’s next generation of tradespeople, and support getting locals into well-paid meaningful work.
Importantly, the Academies are not just for school leavers.
We have welcomed students from all walks of life such as Lisa Berwick at our Perth Academy, who is a 49-year-old mother of three with no prior mining experience. Lisa now works on BHP shutdowns after graduating from a 12-month maintenance traineeship with FutureFit.
Today our inaugural intake of students are about to take their first steps on site as qualified trades people, with skills that they can use now and in the future.
But this is but a drop in the ocean; we are one of many industries leaning into the shortages of tradespeople and skilled operators. Effective coordination of these initiatives can make sure no-one falls through the cracks, and opportunities are available for all.
I would like to shift to the future for a moment…Technology is transforming the resources industry. These advances have facilitated great changes: improved front-line safety, increased production, and accelerated value creation. But they also change the skills profile for workers of the future.
What we now see is technologists or coders using algorithms, side by side with maintainers and operators in the field. This means new skills: robotics maintainers, data analysts, automation specialists, digital and innovation skills. To meet this need, BHP has partnered with the Commonwealth Government to fund 1,000 skills development opportunities across a range of sectors, to create apprenticeships and short courses in areas of potential future workforce demand.
Called The Future of Work Program, BHP is investing $30 million to help strengthen economic resilience in regional communities in particular. It is targeted to address the specific needs of local workforces and small businesses, and I am proud that BHP supports this important work.
Specific to the Resources industry, we are also on the hunt for the next generation of mining engineers, metallurgists, and geologists. Australia is facing a looming gap in these fields.
In 2015, we had 333 mining engineering graduates in Australian universities nationally. That figure was barely 100 last year – and the trend is going down. Industry, government, and the education sector all have a role to play to address this gap – we have to reignite a passion for science and engineering through our schools, attract people to our sector, develop new routes into different careers, and provide dependable pathways to retain skills and experience.
An example of this can be seen in BHP’s partnership with CoRE Learning Foundation and the Minerals Council of Australia to develop educational computer games that will be used in over 60 Australian primary schools as part of the Earth and Environmental Science curriculum that started this month.
We hope that incorporation of resource-focused educational games into the curriculum will help to ignite and foster an interest in STEM from an early age, and aside from giving students a hands-on insight into the world of mining. Hopefully they will also have a bit of fun along the way!
And this year we will extend our graduate internship program to include first year university students with an intent to encourage people just starting their careers to choose the resources sector; we continue to work with universities on curricula to make sure firstly that our graduates are best placed for the future workplace, and secondly that there are alternative pathways to develop careers in our sector. We have continued to review and extend our internal development opportunities to build vibrant and engaging technical career pathways for the future.
But we know this is not something we can do alone, or that we have yet done enough – the need for a diversified and resilient workforce built upon strong apprenticeships, training and life-long learning habits crosses all industries and business sizes. The urgency has been accelerated by the current economic challenges. Support for the Vocational Education and Training sector, the connection to the University sector and the use of short courses and on-the-job training to reskill for the new workplace is critical.
NATIONAL SKILLS WEEK
So in line with this year’s theme for National Skills Week, at BHP we are ‘re-thinking’ our ideas of the future of work and the role Vocational Education and Training has to prepare people for that future.
It is time for us all to take some time to “re-think” what the future of work looks like in our business and community. Workforce skill requirements are shifting. We must adapt.
This will require us all – industry, educators, and governments to work together – to be coordinated and deliberate in funding and action.
BHP aims to do its part to provide the next generation of tradespeople and industry leaders for our sector, but we are hopeful that the conversations of this National Skills Week will tackle some of these challenges and build the right relationships, for the betterment of Australian workers.