Australia’s first nationally recognised course in automation was launched in Perth on Wednesday morning.
The qualifications have been more than a year in the making and will be taught at Perth’s South Metropolitan TAFE from August and piloted for Year 11 and 12 students at four high schools across the state.
The Certificate II was the result of the historic Resource Industry Collaboration group led by iron ore miner Rio Tinto, TAFE and the WA government.
WA is ground zero for automation in the country as mining companies look to driverless vehicles for efficiency and safety improvements at their operations, but the shift has drawn criticism from unions worried about job losses.
Rio Tinto recently began operating the ‘world’s biggest robot’ in the Pilbara, a driverless ore train. The company contributed $2 million towards the program.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said Australia’s workforce was in the midst of an important shift as innovation and technology created new business models across all industries.
“The work of the mining industry is changing and we need new skills, mechatronics, robotics, data analytics. These courses are part of attracting that next generation of workers and obviously contributing to the safety and productivity of our existing businesses,” he said.
“Mining has moved to become a genuine leader in innovative technology and we recognise the critical need to provide effective education programmes and opportunities to help our people succeed in this new era.”
Mr Salisbury said despite the move toward automation they had not seen a net decrease of jobs the company’s operations.
“We’ve had 10 years of experience of automation and technology in many of our operations and overall we see jobs changing but net to net jobs are not decreasing,” he said.
Premier Mark McGowan said the new qualifications were an example of industry working with government to make sure the workforce was skilled.
“These new courses will allow us to maintain our competitive advantage as a leader in automation technology in Australia and ensure local people have the skills for the new jobs that are being created through technological innovation,” he said.
Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA chief executive Paul Everingham said members were facing challenges in attracting a skilled workforce, and training needed to keep up to ensure the industry didn’t fall behind.
“In order to capitalise on these advancements towards automation, robotics and artificial intelligence, we need to ensure skilled local workers are available and we can only do this by ensuring we have courses and training opportunities that provide these skills,” he said.
Resource Industry Collaboration chair Jim Walker said the launch of Australia’s first nationally accredited courses in automation would give WA workers the opportunity to gain modern, portable qualifications, with skills that could be used across the resources industry.
The Certificate II in Autonomous Workplace Operations will be delivered as a pilot to 30 high school students from Cecil Andrews, Gilmore College, Baldivis College and delivered by North Regional TAFE at Karratha Senior High School.
Source: The Age, 12 June 2019