Getting a job when you have no experience, can be the first paradox a young person faces in their working life. However, in Kalgoorlie, it is no longer an issue for some, thanks to Barry Dixon, Production Services Superintendent at the BHP Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter.
“In 2015 we were struggling to attract young local people to work for us,” he said. “So I put forward the idea of a ‘no-experience needed’ traineeship and it got an amazing response,” he said.
When the first jobs were advertised, the response was so great the company had to run four group interview sessions for more than 20 people.
“We employed three female and one male trainee in that first intake, all with no prior mining or processing experience,” Barry said.
After completing an 18 to 24 month traineeship program, participants get a nationally recognised Certificate III in Resource Processing. This certificate covers working safely, applying risk management, being environmentally aware and communication in the workplace as basic skills, and then goes onto the practical skills of operating a process plant.
At the smelter, the trainees learn how to drive large trucks and loaders, understand pumps and ancillary equipment, load dangerous goods like sulphuric acid, work with molten nickel, respond to emergencies and isolate plant for permits to name just a few. They also get national training for working at height and in confined spaces, and in the services area, a national rail safety worker competency.
Conway Klaassen was 18 when he became a trainee, and has now completed 11 of the 13 modules of the program. “When they offered the traineeship, I realised that the benefits and opportunities it offered were fantastic.”
“I haven't thought very far up the career ladder, but in the long term it would be great to be a supervisor and transfer the skills I have learned to another BHP site,” he said.
According to Barry Dixon the traineeships, “Open the door for someone directly out of school to join a global company and start a career, and all we are looking for is the right attitude and aptitude.”
“I have just approved offers for two more female trainees, one was working at a salon and the other a young mum with kids,” he said. “The beautician is the daughter of a speedway driver and has grown up helping dad work on cars, so in terms of attitude and aptitude for processing, she is a perfect fit.”
This will make it seventeen trainees that have been employed to date, twelve of them female, and in the past two months, three of the initial intake, all female, have successfully graduated with their certificates, and have moved into fully fledged Process Technician roles.
Without the program, Barry Dixon said the trainees working with the company today would never have been offered a position with BHP. “It is a life changing experience for the trainees and opens up a world of possibilities that would never have existed otherwise.”