1. What are companies of the Geraldton Iron Ore Alliance doing to meet the job and skills requirements of their developing projects?
A. The Alliance is involved in several initiatives to meet the anticipated job requirements of member companies' developing iron ore mines. These have been underway for some years in advance of project development and the primary focus of these initiatives is to develop the capacity of the regional workforce to enable as many local people as possible to have the opportunity to be engaged in these projects. Examples of these initiatives include:
a. Working with educational and training institutions, eg: Geraldton Trades Training Centre Steering Committee, Durack Institute of Technology, Department of Education, Training WA and Morawa Education Alliance to facilitate development of relevant courses and training facilities in the region.
b. Regular meetings and extensive lobbying of State and Federal Government to develop training/work readiness facilities and programs.
c. Working with agencies and local governments on programs aimed at determining regional job projections, assessing skills needs, educational facilities and employee and family attraction initiatives to enable them to develop relevant and complementary programs as job demand increases.
d. The Alliance initiated the Regional Education Training and Workforce Development Forums which are now held annually in Geraldton to communicate and bring industry, service providers and community stakeholders together to discuss and progress a significant range of initiatives now underway in the region.
e. The Alliance assisted initiation and are the major sponsors of the Geraldton Iron Ore Alliance Mid West Career Expo which is now attended by thousands of students and community members each year. This is not specific to mining careers, but the sponsorship of the event allows any employer in the region to have free access to set up their booths and to engage local students and job-seekers in discussion of available local job opportunities.
While local employment is the preference of the mining companies, to meet their substantial workforce requirements it is recognised that a range of further strategies shall be required, including Drive-In: Drive Out (DIDO) or Bus-In : Bus Out (BIBO) from adjacent towns, Fly In : Fly-Out (FIFO) of the Perth metropolitan area, more distant towns or other Australian cities; skilled migration; and attracting more workers and families to live in the Mid West region to increase the labour pool.
2. Is there anything being done to minimise the impact of this worker demand on other industries and businesses in the region?
A. A strong effort has been made to minimise impacts on local business and industry in the region and there are a number of things being progressed as the mining projects begin to move into the construction and operational stages, such as:
a. Providing local purchasing preference to regional businesses, enabling them to grow their businesses and workforces as part of the development of the emerging Mid West iron ore industry.
b. Working to develop the capacity and encourage participation by sectors of the Mid West community who traditionally have been "under-employed" in the current economy, into the career opportunities that the mining industry offers, including for youth, women, workers in the older age brackets and Aboriginal people of the region.
c. The Alliance in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Western Australia (CCIWA) , is progressing discussions on industrial relations matters with the major project developers in the industry. The discussions are aimed at providing advice and assistance during the development and construction phase and minimizing any impact on local business and industry.
In the context of this issue it is essential to appreciate that FIFO plays an important part in moderating the demand that these major new projects put on drawing available employees from other industries in the local economy. Therefore FIFO is not itself always a bad approach to meeting workforce needs, particularly in a situation such as exists in the Mid West where there are many existing industries and employers in place; it is really about seeking a balance and through that getting the best regional outcomes.
3. What is the industry doing to offer opportunities to Aboriginal people of the region?
A. In respect to Aboriginal employment the Alliance members have 2 key Goals:
1. They intend to be leaders in Aboriginal employment in the Mid West; and are
2. Working to empower Aboriginal people and organisations so they can take a strong and appropriate role in supporting and developing their people through all stages of work preparation, training and during employment.
The primary means of approaching this is through displaying leadership and participation in the Midwest Aboriginal Economic Development and Industry Partnership (MAEDIP), which is developing a strategic and holistic approach to Aboriginal employment. Through the Partnership the Alliance has fully funded a regional Indigenous skills study/audit and contributed with other partners in a business planning study for a regional employment "Gateway" organisation, and a range of other initiatives.
MAEDIP is making significant progress in establishing collaboration across all stakeholder groups, and played a significant part in attaining and development of the Mid West Aboriginal Workforce Development Centre established in early 2011.
Achievement of equitable representation of Aboriginal people in the workforce is a goal that we share with all regional industry and is something that shall be achieved over some years, however at the current early stage of Alliance members projects, good progress is being made and the companies are showing all the signs of being leaders in this area amongst local industry employers.
4. Why does the Mid West iron ore industry consider youth are an "under-employed" sector of the Mid West community?
A. Like virtually all rural and regional Australian communities Geraldton and the Mid West towns lose many of their youth to the capital cities. This is a simple fact easily verified in available Australian Bureau of Statistics publicly provided data.
There are many reasons why young people leave our communities, including seeking education, training and job opportunities. What we need to do is to ensure that young people are aware of the many exciting opportunities that are available in our region (through initiatives such as the Geraldton Iron Ore Alliance Mid West Career Expo) and to work with government and education and training organisations to ensure the training and development courses and facilities that provide pathways to local jobs are available where practical to people in the region.
5. Why does the Mid West iron ore industry require so many people?
A. There are two major reasons for the very significant level of jobs to be generated by the emerging Mid West iron ore mining projects:
a. While the region is not expected to ever reach the scale of the Pilbara iron ore region as a whole, a number of the major iron ore projects planned are of a world class scale in their own right, and will stand amongst Western Australia's largest mining projects.
b. Secondly the nature of the Mid West iron ore industry is very different than that of the Pilbara region, primarily as the major operations shall be mining and processing Magnetite rather than the Hematite ore which does not include the processing component associated with production of magnetite concentrate (although we shall certainly have some successful Hematite operations in the Mid West). This value-adding processing operation creates a significant number of further diverse jobs on the Magnetite mines and hence a larger demand for workers.
6. A number of mining projects are near agricultural areas, are there any specific initiatives being considered in those areas?
A. Companies are developing policies and company HR procedures to work with the agricultural industry enabling farmers to access the mining industry while maintaining viable farms, through job sharing, skills recognition and similar initiatives. A significant number of farmers have been engaged in works associated with the development and operations of Alliance members' early stage projects, particularly in truck haulage work to date.