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Getting ahead of the game.

From outside, the Big Blue Shed in Moranbah looks like any other industrial structure. However, inside it is full of potential, with enthusiastic high school students working hard to get a jump on their careers in the mining industry.

“The Coalfields Training Excellence Centre (CTEC), also known as The Big Blue Shed, was established to help streamline the career pathways available to high school students with engineering aptitude, so they have a good runway into the mining industry,” said Felicity Roberts, Principal at Moranbah High School.

Funded by the Federal Government, BMA and other industry groups, the CTEC is located in Moranbah, a coal mining town in central Queensland and is opening up a world of possibilities for young students.

“The CTEC delivers a full time program allowing up to 25 students to spend two days of their school week in a real working environment,” said Felicity. “They dress in the personal protection equipment they’d wear if they were on a mine site and they learn through operating machinery.”

The program is open to year 11 and 12 students and is a formal part of their education.

Through the CTEC, students attain a certificate one in engineering and a certificate two in engineering pathways and resources along with a certificate two in infrastructure operations. “They take part in a vocational pathway that is hands on, and very practical.

“When you walk into the Shed it is like walking onto a job site,” Felicity said. “It simulates the culture you’d find in the mining industry, which all starts with high expectations around safety.”

“Not only do students gain the academic achievements, but because of the way the Shed is run, it is a simulated work environment that offers a great feel for what working life will be like.”

Over the two years, students learn numerous engineering skills, often based around community-focused projects. “A few years ago they had to build a tool box for the local rescue helicopter, and even rebuilt the community Santa sleigh.”

It is really all about giving them a head start with the engineering skills they will need to enter the mining industry.

The success of the program, which started in 2008, is best measured by the conversion rate of students to full time work in mining. “The rate is more than 98%, and the program is so well respected, that we even have parents move here from Brisbane, a thousand kilometres away, just so their child can take part,” she said.

According to Felicity, the standard of education and the relationship with the mining industry is such that, there is a clear pathway for participants in the program to get a great head start on a quality employment opportunity.

“The other aspect of the program is that it strengthens our community overall, because people are proud of the fact there is such a high quality education program in a local school.”

Often in rural areas, children are forced to go to boarding school but, according to Felicity, programs like those delivered in the Big Blue Shed give them a great feel for what the industry has to offer, and shows a clear career pathway, which means they’re more likely to stay, and that spells growth for the town.

“As a Principal, it makes me extremely proud to know we offer a standard of ‘excellent practice’ that creates a culture of success.

“But as a parent, I feel fantastic knowing that my children, who also attend Moranbah High School, won't get a better of education anywhere else.”