Ensuring rock solid futures

Most industry sectors have experienced periods of skills shortage. With an ageing workforce, sourcing workers of the future is a major challenge.
A government-funded regional initiative is successfully targeting training and work experience in the industry and related fields. The Rock Solid Futures program is a collaborative project, which partners with community providers to offer targeted mentoring, training and employment.
The program is funded by the Australian Government?s Department of Human Services under the Better Futures, Local Solutions initiative, and the New South Wales Government?s State Training Services under the Strategic Skills Program.
This is essentially a story about local community organisations offering assistance to disadvantaged or disengaged people. Three quarries, all major operations in their own right, have provided work experience for several of the participants. The three quarry managers are all active members of the IQA?s Illawarra/Southern Highlands sub-branch.
This initiative, undertaken by Lighthouse Community Care, was overseen by Lighthouse?s program co-ordinator Bob Purcell. Bob carried out an extensive promotional campaign, placing flyers at Centrelink offices and job service agencies, as evidenced by more than 30 organisations partnering in the delivery of the program.
Bob also worked hard to get articles in local newspapers and a feature on the news program of a regional television network. SkillsDMC, the industry skills council, assisted by providing advice on the design of the program qualifications.
In November 2013, 15 participants aged between 19 and 37 graduated from the program. The graduates completed a Certificate II in Resources and Infrastructure Work Preparation at the Shellharbour campus of TAFE NSW ? Illawarra Institute. Their units of competency included:
  • Provide first aid.
  • Work safely and follow OHS policies and procedures.
  • Enter and work in confined spaces.
  • Work safely at heights.
  • Conduct local risk control.
  • Isolate and access plant.
  • Use hand and power tools.
  • Cut, weld and bend materials.
The graduates also gained the following certificates/tickets:
  • Applied First Aid certificate.
  • Working Safely in the Construction Industry ticket (White Card).
  • Work Safely at Heights ticket.
  • Enter and Work in Confined Spaces ticket.
For the work experience component of their program, Hanson?s Bass Point, Holcim?s Albion Park and Boral?s Dunmore quarries each provided two participants with a maximum of 80 hours? work experience.
Other participants were placed in engineering, hydraulics, machining and fabrication operations. All participants were provided with appropriate personal protective equipment for their work experience.
Seven of the 15 graduates who completed the Rock Solid Futures program secured full-time or casual employment, at least until Christmas 2013. Two were offered employment to commence in 2014.
Some participants were considered for traineeships ? in a quarry and a communications company ? and an apprenticeship with a kitchen manufacturer.
Several participants also registered with the NSW Government?s Workforce Mobility Program for fly in, fly out or drive in, drive out opportunities as they were prepared to travel or relocate to other areas of NSW for sustainable employment. 
The sole woman in the program was given full-time employment until Christmas 2013 through a local labour hire company working at Boral?s Dunmore quarry.
While this is a community based program, with government funding, several IQA members were involved in the placement and workplace experience. 
The program has been successful by almost any measure. It was a great outcome for co-operation between Federal and State Governments, community organisations, quarries and IQA members and marks a significant step towards educating the future workforce and, as the program attests, providing a rock solid future.
The IQA?s Illawarra/Southern Highlands sub-branch, headed by chairman Craig Potts, has welcomed Bob Purcell into its network and its February dinner meeting covered the operation of this program. 
For more information about the Lighthouse Rock Solid Futures program, visit:

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