NSW Minerals Council – May 2006
There is an imminent short fall in the skills vital to the functioning of underground coal mines in both NSW & Queensland. Deputies are a statutory position and there must be suitably qualified and experienced people in such positions in order for a company to continue meeting its legislative requirements. Given the challenges faced by the NSW coal industry e.g. geographical location, relatively small numbers of people in these positions, etc there has been a decline in the take up of the Deputies‟ Course in traditional face to face learning environments (e.g. TAFE). With technological developments in computing and particularly with the internet, flexible online delivery appeared to hold great potential to build the stock of skills and knowledge necessary to maintain adequately trained personnel in the Coal industry.
The first stage of the pilot program (3 Units of Competency) was not advertised and potential candidates were sought from Centennial, Newpac and Xstrata only, as these sites were in close proximity to the Newcastle Mines Rescue Station. This was seen as a logical way to progress towards a full, flexible Online Education Model with minimal face-to-face contact. Some 10 – 16 candidates were sought to participate in the pilot. On the no-commitment information morning on Saturday 22 January 2005, 35 mentors and potential candidates attended with just one weeks‟ notice. Numerous apologies were also received. During the preceding week, Murray Bird of MRS had taken many phone calls from other companies and contracting firms seeking 2 positions on the pilot program. This interest continued over subsequent weeks. Ultimately, only 17 candidates were accepted, 16 from industry and 1 from MRS.