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Harnessing the passion of tomorrow’s leaders – today

As a father of two toddlers, I’m constantly amazed by the curiosity and passion of small children.

That’s why a news story this month about a quarry kindergarten tour organised by the Metro Quarry Group in Gippsland, Victoria is a heartwarming one.

As industry professionals, I’m sure you all get a thrill from your individual contributions to the quarrying process.

Imagine then how awe-inspiring it is for youngsters to see up close machines that they often read about in picture books or which they glimpse sitting idle on the roadside during long drives on weekends.

However, it seems to me that as soon as that spark of enthusiasm for quarrying is ignited, it dissipates as children are educated and grow into adolescence.

How does the quarrying industry harness that initial passion and translate it from the sandpit to the stockpile in later years?

{{quote-A:R-W:300-Q:"How does the industry translate a young child’s passion from the sandpit to the stockpile?"}}It’s not as if the quarrying industry is averse to community engagement. Like Metro Quarry Group, other businesses organise open days for families and their communities, and primary and secondary students are involved in site visits and excursions.

Many producers also support charitable causes in their communities and their products can also be put to innovative uses, eg Aidan J Graham on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula has been a supplier of quarried sand to annual sand sculpting events for many years.

The IQA is also more increasingly involved in developing programs that promote quarrying as a career to primary, secondary and tertiary students.

Nevertheless, it still seems to me that there is a fragmentation between the industry’s engagement in childhood and when young people enter the workforce.

In this column a year ago, I suggested that perhaps the industry – the IQA, the CCAA, and large, medium and small aggregate companies – need to adopt a proactive, integrated communication approach and develop common resources that all quarries can utilise in their community relations initiatives.

This would put the industry “on message” and enable it to demonstrate to the public that quarrying is as much about people as it is about heavy machinery and rocks, and that it makes meaningful, sustainable contributions to society.

I expect it’s “early days” and that’s precisely where the IQA and other parties would eventually like to go. There is a great opportunity for the industry to be telling positive stories about itself from the earliest years of a person’s life right through to the end of their schooling.

The industry should not have to repeatedly justify to a broader mature public time and again its very right to exist whenever a new greenfield or brownfield application is raised (this is certainly happening in New Zealand as the industry and its peak bodies there encounter a groundswell of grassroots opposition to a range of extractive proposals).

Moreover, as the industry gravitates towards in-pit automation and digital control, there’s no reason why the industry can’t promote the engineering side of the business as a career choice for girls too – or why boys and girls alike should not be considering related careers (administration, marketing, communications, OHS, environmental) in the industry.

The quarrying sector has a fantastic opportunity to “unbottle” the talents of a new generation of young workers – but how it organises its communication strategies today could underpin its prosperity tomorrow.

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