Curtin combats skills shortage

WESTERN Australia’s Curtin University of Technology is part of a group of three national universities that have combined with the Australian Minerals Council to establish the first national school of mining engineering. The move is a key part of the industry’s response to the chronic skills shortage restricting the growth of the nation’s largest export earner. The proposed national school is to be called Mining Education Australia and will be a formal partnership between the MCA’s Minerals Tertiary Education Council, Curtin University, the University of New South Wales and the University of Queensland. MCA chief executive Mitchell Hooke said developing the collaborative university program was part of the MCA’s nationally coordinated strategy for the minerals industry to overcome the well-documented global shortage of professionals and tradespeople. “Mining Education Australia is being designed to strengthen our alliance with Australia’s premier suppliers of mining engineering graduates and help alleviate the skills crisis by providing a dependable source of well-qualified mining engineers into the next decade,” Mr Hooke said. As a virtual school, mining engineering students in their third and fourth years will enter the nationally based curriculum, from which universities will take elements specific to their courses. For example a student studying metallurgy at Curtin will adopt the national standard in that course. According to the MTEC the national curriculum will be finalised this week in Sydney. MTEC executive director Kevin Tuckwell said the school was developed in response to a study done in 1998 by the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy that identified the skills shortage. “Really it’s about delivery mechanisms on a national scale,” Mr Tuckwell said. Professor Peter Lilly, director of the Curtin WA School of Mines, who has played a major role in the development of the school, said the school would effectively share staff and resources in collaborative sense in order to get around the shortage of quality teaching. “What we’re doing is strategically important for Australia’s future, because minerals are a major player in the country’s economic position,’ he said. Mr Lilly said the program would provide a real boon for students throughout the country as they would have the opportunity to work with students from other universities on design projects.

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