Curriculum changes risk prosperity and future minerals workforce

Australia’s prosperity and the future success of its world-leading minerals sector would be put at risk with proposed changes to Australia’s primary and secondary curriculum.

The MCA’s submission to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has urged ACARA to strengthen the earth sciences and mathematics curricula to educate more young Australians in STEM from an early age.

Encouraging primary and secondary students to learn about the mining industry and the science behind the formation of the earth, water systems and climate is an important building block for the skills pipeline feeding one of Australia’s largest industries.

Students should also be exposed to core foundational mathematics across primary, secondary and senior secondary studies for successful participation in STEM pathways.

Mathematics should therefore be compulsory in senior secondary education.

Existing skills shortages – including those generated or worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic – means that building better understanding and connections for primary and secondary students to earth sciences is critical to the future growth of the minerals workforce.

The minerals industry also needs the best and brightest students with a broad and deep understanding of the world around them to achieve more sustainable and socially valuable outcomes.

A stronger minerals industry which uses innovation and a highly skilled workforce is good for Australia, providing higher rates of economic growth and larger export income and sustaining regional communities.

The resources sector has a strong record in creating highly paid, highly skilled jobs, with average earnings of $141,000 a year.

The industry employs more than 8,600 apprentices and trainees and more than 6,600 Indigenous Australians – including in remote areas of the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia – and together with the mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector accounts for more than one in ten Australian jobs.

Supporting continued success and growth requires a fit for purpose and contemporary national curriculum to support future operational, technical and professional careers.

As Australia recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, the skills and training needs of both the industry and the future minerals workforce will require close attention, including retraining and reskilling entrants from other industries affected by COVID-19.

Skills required in mining are also complementary to those required in agriculture, advanced manufacturing, construction and defence industry.

With interest in STEM subjects falling short of the levels required to ensure Australia’s future workforce is job-ready, now is not the time to weaken the national curriculum with poorly-considered changes.

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