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The automation revolution

There's no doubt that the world today is in the midst of unprecedented technological advancement. While technological change has vastly changed the world we live and work in, the technologies of today are impacting us in ways we never imagined. 


The future and security of today's workforce relies on the ability of training providers to align workers with the latest changes in technology. Queensland is leading the way, with industry and training providers working together to develop innovative solutions to meet the changing needs of a modern workforce. 

The fourth industrial revolution

Back in the 18th century the use of steam power to mechanise production led to the first industrial revolution. Widespread adoption of electricity in the 19th century brought on the second industrial revolution, while the emergence of computers and digital technology in the 1950s triggered the third. 

Today, we're at the start of the fourth industrial revolution — a combination of new technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, natural language coding, robotics, sensors, cloud computing, nano-technology, 3D printing and the internet of things. This industrial revolution is happening at an exponential pace, with businesses struggling to keep up with the rapid rate of change. 

The impact of industry 4.0 to today's workforce is well documented. According to the Foundation for Young Australians report, The New Work Order, 70 per cent of young people are entering the workforce in jobs that are affected by automation, and McKinsey & Company in Australia's Automation Opportunity report anticipate that 25-46 per cent of Australia’s work activity is going to be automated by 2030.

It's no surprise then that figures like this are creating a lot of angst with issues such as automation sparking fears of mass job losses. However, the reality is that the introduction of automation technologies in industry will simply require an upgrade of skills. This rapid rate of occupational change and new technology adoption means that the need to re-skill and up-skill the existing workforce is more critical than ever before. 

Queensland Future Skills Partnership

To address these changes, TAFE Queensland has joined forces with BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) and CQUniversity in a new multi-million dollar skills partnership.

The aim of the partnership — dubbed the Queensland Future Skills Partnership — is to develop and deliver new training products to help businesses take advantage of industry 4.0.

Specifically, the partnership will create a suite of new autonomy related qualifications to better prepare new and existing workers in the modern mining, equipment, technology and services (METS) sector in Queensland. These qualifications, skill sets and micro-credentials will deliver the first wave of new skills that will be required to support new advances in technology.

The new qualifications and career pathways developed through this partnership will equip the current and future workforce with skills and capabilities for the changing nature of work in mining, mining communities and related industries including the agricultural, tourism and hospitality industries.

Some of the opportunities include a traineeship qualification in autonomous operations, expanding existing trade apprenticeships to include autonomous competencies, as well as an entry pathway for autonomous mine controllers.

There is also potential for a higher level apprenticeship qualification to be developed as well as introducing augmented reality, virtual mentoring, and virtual reality applications into the mainstream workforce through targeted skills development.

This partnership is a true industry collaboration between one of the world’s leading miners and Queensland’s public training providers to design and deliver courses based on unique industry demands that are needed now, and into the future.

The impact of automation on the mining industry 

According to mining executives from around the globe, the mining industry is on the brink of an unprecedented technological transformation.

Mining companies across the world are rapidly adopting the latest automation technology to modernise their operations with a new report from State of Play finding 73 per cent of mining executives believe robotics and automation will be the biggest impacts on the industry over the next 15 years. 

Automation isn't new to the mining industry, but recent technological advancements have made it more accessible and affordable than ever before, opening the technology up to more than just the big mining companies. 

In today’s mining operations, widespread use of automation is now possible due to the convergence of a number of different technologies including GPS, machine learning, wireless communication, and the ability to store and transfer large amounts of data.

The benefits of automation to the mining industry are far reaching. Companies that implement automation technologies will quickly realise a significant increase in productivity and a decrease in expenditures. According to accountancy firm EY, some companies have seen productivity rise by up to 20 per cent after adopting new technologies.

The industry also will benefit from considerable increases in safety. By using automated equipment that can be maneuvered into unsafe areas and difficult locations, mining companies can send fewer miners underground while extracting a higher output with lower risk to their employees.

Other benefits include better fuel efficiency, reduced unscheduled maintenance, improved working conditions, better vehicle utilisation, decreased environmental impacts, and reduced driver fatigue and attrition.

In fact, according to the Staying Ahead of the Game report if Australia’s mining and resources industry worked together with policymakers, educators, and the technology supply chain, mining operations could be up to 60 per cent more efficient and environmentally sustainable.


How TAFE Queensland can help

TAFE Queensland is leading the way in delivering innovative new training and qualifications to meet the needs of the industries of tomorrow. TAFE Queensland currently offers a Certificate IV in Industrial Automation and Control (UEE43211) which prepares graduates to assemble, set up, program, fault find, repair and maintain automated equipment and systems. 

Work is also underway as part of the Queensland Future Skills partnership to introduce a range of new qualifications, skill sets and micro-credentials in autonomous operations. 

Find out how TAFE Queensland can help your workforce prepare for the automation needs of the future.