Program spreads FIFO wings north

FIFO workers will be part of a program being trialled out of Cairns.
FIFO workers will be part of a program being trialled out of Cairns.

A TRIAL fly in, fly out project in North Queensland and the shortening of mines apprenticeship periods will potentially deliver a devastating blow to mining communities.

The Federal Government this week announced it will appoint a fly in, fly out coordinator in the Cairns region in an attempt to reduce unemployment figures in remote areas.

If successful, the program will be implemented in other regional areas.

“Finding skilled workers has always been a problem for big industrial projects in remote areas,” Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said.

“The resources boom is creating an immediate and ongoing need to maintain the talent pool of skilled workers.

“(The program will) help diversify the economy and reduce the high level of unemployment.”

Fast-tracked adult apprenticeships are also being shortened from four years to 18 months with a view of filling desperately needed skilled worker vacancies in the resource sector.

An estimated 250 of the 1000 initial adult apprentices to be recruited will be from Queensland in the 18-month pilot program which is part of a range of initiatives offered to address skill shortages in Australia.

The Gillard Government opened a $200 million Critical Skills Investment Fund to partner with the mining and resource industry to further provide training and employment opportunities.

Resource companies can apply for funding assistance from the government to train 39,000 skilled workers over the next four years.

Mining communities advocate Jim Pearce said he supported mining companies expanding to regional areas, but questioned the funding.

“We all want to see unemployed people get the opportunity to get a job, but... small businesses don’t get funding to help train their staff,” he said. “It’s outrageous that taxpayers have to fork out the money to train these workers when the mining companies report incomes of billions of dollars a year.”

An Anglo Metallurgical Coal spokeswoman said the skills program was still in its infant stage, but promised to continue giving adults the option of changing their career path.

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