18/06/2008 - 22:00

Staff training spend back on the agenda

18/06/2008 - 22:00

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The mining industry has sought to counter criticism of its commitment to training by citing a report showing that mining companies spend more on staff education than any other sector.

FAIR GO?: Mining companies spend about three times the industry average on employee training, yet the building industry says they could do more. Photo: Tim van Bronswijk

The mining industry has sought to counter criticism of its commitment to training by citing a report showing that mining companies spend more on staff education than any other sector.

The report, from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, quoting 2003 figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, found the mining industry spent three times the industry average on training, with 96 per cent of employers training staff.

It showed 83 per cent of mining employees were part of the vocational education system, above the industry average of 54 per cent, while 88 per cent of mining companies offered informal training (compared with 71 per cent industry wide).

The Minerals Council of Australia has welcomed the findings, arguing that further investment in training is required by the state and federal governments.

It has also called for training reforms in vocational education, to ensure the system is flexible and responsive to the needs of companies in regional and remote areas.

However, the Master Builders Association of Western Australia says the report masks the mining industry's lack of investment in the training of construction workers.

The organisation's executive director, Michael McLean, said the flight of skilled construction workers, such as project managers and quantity surveyors, to the mining sector was a major problem for the building industry.

"[Mining companies are] in the fortunate position where their budgets can allow a higher contribution to training than most," he said.

"But the mining industry does not take any responsibility for the training of construction workers."

Mr McLean said mining companies should be required to contribute to the state's Building and Construction Industry Training Fund (BCITF), like their counterparts in South Australia and Queensland which donate to similar programs.

Under the fund, companies in the residential, commercial and civil engineering sectors contribute 0.2 per cent of the total cost of projects towards training.

Mr McLean said conservative estimates showed the BCITF could grow from $23 million to $43 million per year if the mining industry was included.

"We believe some arrangement could be made to cap it [for mining companies]," he said.

"It's scandalous that an industry as lucrative as mining is not brought to account on this."

The new report also highlights the skills shortage faced by the mining industry, which had the highest proportion of employers reporting difficulties in recruiting staff.

According to the same report, 91 per cent of employers in the construction sector provided training, but spent just 0.6 per cent of gross wages and salaries on training in 2001-02.

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