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MCA calls for overhaul of education system and workplace relations laws

Published by
Global Mining Review,

Australia’s higher education system should be reformed and outdated workplace relations laws that discourage investment and stifle innovation should be fixed, according to a submission by the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) to the Senate Select Committee on the Future of Work.

The MCA has outlined a range of reforms to attract and retain the highly-skilled workers to maintain Australia’s strong comparative advantage in minerals, which creates high-wage jobs and underpins the nation’s largest export earner.

Australia’s minerals industry and the broader mining equipment, technology and services sector employ 1.1 million people, or 10% of the Australian workforce.

With technology such as automation, drones, robotics and artificial intelligence changing the face of the modern mining sector, the future success of the minerals industry will depend on highly skilled and technologically-literate experts including operators, engineers, environmental scientists and geologists.

The mining sector spends nearly AUS$3 billion on R&D every year – or nearly AUS$1 in every AUS$6 of business R&D spending in Australia – and accounts for the largest industry share of high-growth micro start-up businesses.

In a survey of MCA member companies, 70% of respondents cited R&D and adoption of new technologies as important or very important to achieving future improvements in productivity. Yet the organisation is concerned that the mining sector will struggle to find the highly-skilled workers it needs to take advantage of new technology and innovation without action by government.

The submission outlines reforms that the MCA believes will help build the future workforce, including:

  • Reforming the education system as recommended by the Productivity Commission to support skills formation linked to an open, high-quality education system to prepare people with the right skills for technology adoption, use and diffusion.
  • Stronger accountability mechanisms to ensure increased university fee revenue is devoted to teaching and student services.
  • Modernising the workplace by confining permitted content in enterprise agreements to direct employment matters, reforming greenfields agreements to encourage investment in new projects and rebalancing rigid union right-of-entry provisions which allow for undue interference and disruption.

MCA members have invested more than AUS$50 million across 17 universities in the last decade in collaborative programmes to ensure a high-quality supply of Australian graduates. This includes the creation of a national portal for high-quality teaching materials on minerals to help address the alarming decline in STEM participation in Australian schools over the last decade.

Australia’s higher education sector together with modernised workplace relations will play a vital role in ensuring the future workforce is equipped with the necessary skills for the mining jobs of the future.

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Australian mining news Minerals Council of Australia news