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Why strategic partnerships are needed to solve skills shortages in the mining maintenance industry.

By Tully Young – Owner and Managing Director at Blue Tongue

With Australia’s mining industry continuing to produce near record volumes of production in metals, gold and iron ore, one of the biggest issues currently threatening projects is skilled labour shortages.

For the 17 years that I have been in the industry, upskilling and supplying skilled workers for the mining and resources sector, I have never seen demand for skilled workers at this level. Just in the last quarter alone, the industry has grown by 20,000 workers and by nearly 30% in the last two years.

The pressure on Western Australia is certainly felt right now as it powers the national economy through post pandemic turmoil with more than $50 billion of major projects in the pipeline. We are facing unprecedented demand under the global push for green energy and low-carbon transport solutions. As the world’s second largest supplier of lithium, and a leader in hydrogen projects (further down the track), this will only add pressure for more skilled workers in the coming years.  Defence sector project spend is predicted to be closer to hundreds of billions of dollars, so this will further tighten the supply of skilled people.

The consequences of worker shortages disrupting the continuation of these projects is huge. It remains critical that we find ways to bridge the skills shortage gaps to ensure that Western Australia can continue driving the economy through difficult times as it did during the pandemic, whilst also meeting the surging demand for new industry projects.

The benefits of strategic business partnerships

  1. Reduces costs

Forging strategic partnerships is, I believe, at the core of solving skill shortages. In my experience, businesses who go it alone face an uphill battle. I have seen businesses try and take on too much, particularly when it is not their area of expertise, under the belief it will be more cost efficient. But in the long run, it ends up costing them significantly more as well as time, opportunity and resources wasted.

  1. Access to knowledge and additional resources

A collaborative approach gives businesses access to new markets where the risk involved becomes substantially reduced. It also gives them access to additional resources and expertise that can increase productivity and give a competitive edge over those trying to do it all themselves.

Minimises risk

At Blue Tongue our project co-investment approach to solve skill shortages removes the risk for our partner Clients because we take on all the up-front costs associated with recruiting, hiring, training or upskilling, relocating and supporting a specialist trade workforce through our upskill programs. Our partner Clients can instead focus on productivity and output and draw on our expertise and years of research in deep expert skills-mapping. With a 93% retention rate, our collaborative approach means our partner clients are in a position to directly take on a workforce, after an agreed transition period, that is committed, loyal and skilled.

When we developed our Light Vehicle to Heavy Duty Mechanic Advanced Group Training Program ten years ago, it revolutionised the way skilled workers were able to break into the mining industry while simultaneously meeting the demands from mining companies seeking Heavy Diesel Mechanics. It minimised risk, increased resources and maximised efficiency to give our partner Clients a competitive edge. But the program’s success is entirely due to its strategic partnership approach — we know that our upskill programs are only as good as the host Client that we partner with.

Now more than ever, it’s absolutely critical that skill shortages in the Western Australia mining industry are tackled head on. It is an immense pressure placed on our state, to drive the nation’s economy amidst whisperings of a global recession looming, whilst keeping up with our responsibilities to become NetZero by 2050 as the world’s second largest supplier of lithium. We can only do this by pooling together our knowledge, resources and expertise.


“It is the long history of humankind — those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively, have prevailed.”  Charles Darwin