Training, developing a remote workforce

There are a variety of challenges confronting the quarrying and extractive industry’s working environment. The industry is under increasing pressure to develop greater workforce competency, people management and skills development. These challenges can be further exacerbated in remote communities, in particular the Horn Island Quarry in the Torres Strait.

To consolidate the Horn Island Quarry’s operations and sustain its potential growth opportunities, it was vital for the workforce to be competent in all aspects of the business. Therefore, the development of a reliable and effective training and workforce development system was imperative.

Horn Island (Narupai) is in the Torres Strait between the Australian mainland and Papua New Guinea. It is a gateway for travellers to the mainland and outer islands. At the 2006 census, Horn Island had a population of 585. The present day population consists of islanders drawn from all islands of the Torres Strait, plus non-islanders. Torres Shire Council is the local government authority, providing the island community’s municipal services.

In 2011, the IQA received a Skills Queensland tender for $239,163.50 to fund a qualifications and coaching project for the workers at Horn Island Quarry. This funding has allowed the IQA, in consultation with a number of stakeholders, to develop a workforce development plan to support this remote quarry and its people on Horn and Thursday islands. This plan incorporates formal qualifications training opportunities, core skills training, a coaching program, employment preparation, workforce participation and site tours to working quarries demonstrating leading practice.
The strategic goals for the project include:

1.    Development and delivery of competency-based training at the management and operator levels.
2.    Development and delivery of a coaching program at the management and operator levels.
3.    Building greater workforce capacity.
4.    Safer quarry site practices.
5.    Optimal production.
6.    Greater workforce efficiency.
7.    De-risking future expansion.
8.    Embedding a culture of continuous improvement throughout the workforce.

The project team members include:

  • Wayne Wallace, project coach.
  • Joe Torrents, project trainer and assessor, Australian Training Alliance Group Registered Training Organisation.
  • Steve Firth, mines inspector, Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines.
  • Julius Tabua, Horn Island Quarry manager.
  • Paul Sutton, project director.

The project continues to be well received by the Torres Shire Council and the Horn Island Quarry. Due to the coaching and training components of the project, there have been some changes on the quarry site including:

  • Traffic management initiatives with new signage installed.
  • Fencing around the crushing plant to reduce the risk of personnel being injured while the plant is operating.
  • Electrical testing.
  • Strong partnering between all project team members.
  • Compliance with directives received from the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines.
  • The enrolment of nine Horn Island Quarry employees in RII30112 Certificate III in Surface Extraction Operations, with training and assessment activities on-site.

The Horn Island Quarry project will be among the topics in the speakers’ program for the 2013 IQA annual conference, to be held in Townsville from 18 to 21 September.

Paul Sutton is the IQA General Manager.

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