Around 420 training places in construction and mining will be made available in Western Australia as a result of the recently completed upgrade of a South Gilford training centre, the federal government says.
Officially opening the newly extended WesTrac National Skills Training Centre of Excellence on Monday, senator and minister for skills Chris Evans said the state-of-the art training centre will help boost the number of skilled mining and construction workers entering the industry and help existing workers keep their skills up to date.
“Western Australia faces an ever-increasing need for skilled workers due to the ongoing resources boom and an expanding construction sector,” Evans says.
Funded by the Australian Government in partnership with WesTrac Pty Ltd, a supplier of heavy equipment and machinery for mining, transport and agriculture, the upgraded centre now boasts six new classrooms, workshop bays, a high-tech virtual training room and student services and amenities including a study room, library and career counselling. In total, the upgrade cost around $10 million.
Evans says upgraded centre, which was funded under a $558 million National Workforce Development Fund aimed at improving workforce skills across the nation, will deliver industry-specific training to hundreds of students to help them develop practical construction and mining skills.
While the extra commitment to training is likely to be welcomed by unions and the building industry, the move may serve to underscore increasing levels of concern that the mining industry should be paying more to help train construction workers in Western Australia.
Last month, the Western Australian branch of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union launched a campaign aimed at forcing mining firms in the state to contribute to a state-based training fund.
Currently, all residential and commercial builders across the state pay a levy of 0.2 per cent on construction projects worth over $20,000 into the fund. Though mining and resource companies are subject to the levy for any buildings associated with their operations (e.g. offices, houses, worker accommodation), they are not charged the levy for the construction of their actual mines or for associated infrastructure such as rail or ports.
Given the large portion of the construction workforce necessary on such projects and the extent to which resource companies obtain labour by poaching from building firms, both the union and the building industry believe mining firms should be forced to pay the levy with regard to the infrastructure which their construction workforce builds as well as any actual physical buildings these companies erect.