Training our tomorrows

The bustling SMW Group site at Parkhurst.

From the CEO's Desk with Jack Trenaman

On the back of record resources export prices, the resources industry is full of short- and long-term opportunities. Human resources are in demand, and businesses who haven’t prepared are now caught short. Whether it’s in qualified trades, apprentices or non-trade and trainee positions, there’s plenty of work for job seekers out there.

The Queensland Resources Council’s latest State of the Sector report surveys resources industry CEOs, and 35 per cent of them are looking to increase employment at their operations over the next 12 months. 95 percent of them are confident about the strong, long-term future of the industry, and 70 per cent feel confident that their company will grow over the next 12 months.

However, our industry is one that’s known for its boom-and-bust cycles, and as the weekend’s election has foreshadowed, the resources (and even agriculture) industries may soon come under political pressure with a change of government. So how do we as an industry continue to prepare the next generation of workers and tell our young people that there is still a long-term future for them in regional Queensland, an area focused heavily on resources, mining, and agriculture? There are three keys to this approach:

1. The demand for high quality, low emissions coal isn’t going anywhere

Realistically, there are no scenarios where coal disappears overnight. A good portion of the mines in the Bowen Basin are metallurgical coal mines – and there is still no current commercially viable alternative to using 770kg of metallurgical coal for every tonne of steel made in a steel foundry. The world’s ongoing population growth needs to keep building public infrastructure, homes, highways, and cities. A natural consequence of population growth in today’s world means demand for steel…which in turn demands high quality coal to supply steel production. If you understand the iron ore and coal equation, plus the fact that the coal produced in the Bowen Basin is some of the highest-quality, lowest-emission coal in the world, this local coal demand will be around for decades into the future. Regional Queensland is a wonderful place to build a career.

2. Mining careers are about long-term skill sets

In regional Queensland, geographically we have an abundance of coal. But this doesn’t mean that choosing a mining career sends you straight to the coalface. There’s plenty of opportunity locally in the resources industry outside of coal: think magnesite, gold, limestone, marble, tin and aggregates quarrying.

Or how would you like to invent the next robotic safety solution, produce a way to make solar panel cleaning more efficient, or work out a way to use less steel while making equipment that lasts? These are innovations that SMW Group have developed to stay efficient and industry leading, thanks to our tradespeople’s experience and our engineers’ expertise. There’s an entire industry out there supporting mining and resources sectors, and it’s an industry focused on safety, quality, efficiency, and productivity.

3. The skills you’ll learn have enduring value

Choosing a trade, working in a non-trade position or heading into engineering is where some of the most critical skills shortages are (and have been for some years). This doesn’t mean you’re choosing to work in that trade or even that industry for the rest of your working career. Numerous of tradespeople and mining engineers have uncovered other talents as they move through their careers. I started my career out as an apprentice fitter, turner, and machinist in Parkhurst’s CQ Cement Plant, and through a few life’s twists and turns I have managed to work my way up to being CEO of SMW Group.

Key skills I learnt in my early years are still with me today: problem solving, human resources management, and always supporting the local communities as normal business practice. And not to mention focusing on safety, quality, efficiency, and productivity…that’s something we can all take with us to improve the world, no matter what industry you’re in.

Putting these three keys together – it makes absolute sense that SMW Group will continue to invest in regional Queensland’s workforce by training the next generation of apprentices and trainees and putting our core resources sector skills to work across multiple industries.

At SMW Group, we have always committed to having around 10 per cent of our workforce as trainees and apprentices – we know it’s an investment in regional Queensland’s future.