At the end of last financial year only 16.7% of employees and 16.4% of key management personnel in the Australian mining industry were female*. While an increase on 16.1% and 14.8% in 2017, there is still much work to do to achieve gender balance.
However, the future is looking bright if the female to male ratio in the TAFE NSW Muswellbrook Mining Skills Program is any indication of progress. Over its 14 years the number of female participants has risen, and this year they account for 29% of the class - almost double the industry average.
TAFE NSW Regional General Manager Susie George says, “Resource companies are making considerable efforts to attract and retain women. TAFE NSW fully supports this and takes pride in our role of teaching, mentoring and encouraging our female students to become well-qualified and confident industry participants.”
“In developing the next generation of industry leaders, regardless of gender, a critical component is ensuring access to high quality education and training. We work closely with some of the Hunter’s biggest employers to ensure we give all apprentices the abilities, knowledge and ‘seam to sea’ exposure they need to be job-ready.”
Commentary: Mining apprentices
Current TAFE NSW Muswellbrook Mining Skills Program student Antonia Moncrieff is a 22 year old first-year electrical apprentice from Stockton. She is hosted by Port Waratah Coal Services and employed by Programmed Training Services.
She says, “My experience has been absolutely positive. I haven’t observed any men versus women dynamic, in every interaction we’re just all working together to achieve a goal that benefits the company. All the tradesmen I come into contact with have enjoyed sharing their knowledge with me and just want to see me succeed.”
On the need for greater diversity in the industry, Antonia says, “Diversity brings different perspectives and problem solving skills. I believe women are excellent at resolving conflict and mentoring others, whether female or male. I believe that’s one of our strengths. Women bring lots of positive qualities and with an increase in our participation comes an increase in highly skilled people in the workplace.”
28 year old Jennifer Chalker from Muswellbrook, a BHP Mt Arthur Coal second-year electrical apprentice who was part of the 2018 TAFE NSW Muswellbrook Mining Skills Program, agrees.
“I have found that it is much the same as any work place. Having previously been a service manager in the automotive industry, I've always worked in typically male dominated industries. If you are willing to learn and put in the effort you will gain the respect of your co-workers regardless of your gender or theirs,” she says.
“I think more females being given the opportunity to complete trades they may not have been able to access in the past is great. If you are looking for a career within the industry, don't let what others think hold you back. Research ways you can obtain your goal and don't be disheartened if you don't succeed the first time.”
Commentary: Mining industry
NSW Women in Mining Network co-chair and BHP Lead Corporate Affairs NSW, Deirdra Tindale, says increasing female participation in the sector has been found to significantly benefit mining companies and local communities.
“Companies are realising gender diversity is no longer simply a nice or a good thing to do, but the right thing to do – both for broader society and their own bottom lines. We have seen that diversity delivers improved productivity results, greater access to talent, stronger employee retention and reduced employee turnover.
“One of the biggest levers to attracting and retaining women to the resources industry has been the introduction of flexible work practices. This can take many forms, from the ability to work remotely to job share arrangements. Ultimately, this demonstrates to all employees that they shouldn’t feel constrained by the more traditional way of working, i.e. at a desk from 9am to 5pm.
“Flexible work is challenging the status quo and changing the look and feel of the workplace for both women and men. It’s encouraging everyone to think differently about how they can best achieve the desired outcomes.
“Studies have found that mentoring and sponsorship are also useful tools for employers to consider. The WIMnet NSW Mentoring Program is now entering its fifth year, with more than 120 female employees in the mining sector matched with experienced mentors since the Program’s inception. These women receive guidance and assistance with achieving their goals and some of the outcomes have included promotions, better work-life balance and increased confidence in dealing with colleagues in a male-dominated workplace.
“It is wonderful to hear that the TAFE NSW Muswellbrook Mining Skills Program is close to reaching a 1:3 ratio of males to females. This is positive progress and assists with working towards BHP’s aspirational goal of 50/50 gender balance by 2025.”
Port Waratah Coal Services Chief Executive Officer Hennie du Plooy says Port Waratah is committed to diversity and inclusion, fairness and equality but this commitment takes active leadership. Today, five of eleven senior leaders in its senior leadership team are female; three years ago there was only one female in that team.
“This is a result of Port Waratah purposefully engaging with our people, formalising the Diversity and Inclusion program and giving our Diversity and Inclusion Working Group authority to initiate projects and actively seeking out more diversity in our candidate pool when recruiting. Our first two attempts at actively finding diverse apprentice candidates were unsuccessful. In the third year we were successful and I am very pleased that we have been able to welcome Antonia, our first female apprentice this year.”
Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) CEO Stephen Durkin, said, “At AusIMM, we work to promote an industry that values and inspires every professional, regardless of gender, which is why we founded our Council for Diversity and Inclusion last year.”
“Women have contributed greatly to the sector... Much progress has been made, as we can see through the increase in females entering the resources industry. However, there is still work to be done to ensure women feel included and confident in pursuing the immense opportunities waiting for them in the sector.”
About: TAFE NSW Muswellbrook Mining Skills Program
Delivered from the purpose built Mining Skills Centre at TAFE NSW Muswellbrook, the six-month program is a unique offering that complements the course delivery for trade qualifications in the electro-technology, engineering- mechanical trade and mobile plant technology disciplines.
It delivers real-world practical experience and a thorough understanding of how to be a safe, work-ready apprentice. Students receive an overall education about coal mining while studying fundamentals of the four trade areas of machining, electrical, metal fabrication and automotive. They also learn about financial awareness, health and nutrition, drug and alcohol safety, fatigue management and road safety awareness.
The program’s effectiveness is due to a close collaboration with some of the Hunter’s biggest companies, including AGL Macquarie, Bengalla Mining Company, BHP-Mount Arthur, Hitachi Construction Machinery, Port Waratah Coal Services and Yancoal-Mount Thorley Warkworth. Programmed and MIGAS are also involved, providing Employment and Pastoral Care for their respective apprentices on these sites.
Australia’s largest training provider, TAFE NSW offers over 1,200 courses, from certificates to degrees. Many can be studied online via TAFE Digital, when and where it suits students. Visit www.tafensw.com.au or call 131 601.
*Workplace Gender Equality Agency