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BHP unveils new state-of-the art training centre in WA

David Prestipino -

BHP has strengthened its $300 million commitment to paid training pathways in mining with the opening of a new state-of-the-art academy in Perth.

The company unveiled its FutureFit Academy in Forrestfield, more than double the size of its predecessor in Welshpool, with an additional 110,000sqm of workshop space and capacity for more students.

The training centre also offers expanded curriculum, including high-risk work licensing, maintenance associate and trade programs in auto electrical, fabrication mechanical fitting and heavy diesel.

Launched in 2020, the BHP FutureFit Academy offers paid training pathways into the mining industry for those without previous mining experience, at any stage of their career.

The mining titan aims to create 2500 new traineeships and apprenticeships nationally over five years and build the skills needed for modern mining.

More than 1,100 people have joined the program to date, with over 500 graduating with qualifications and a guaranteed job with BHP.

More than 20 per cent of students at the academy are Indigenous, including Kael Thompson, a proud 33-year-old Noongar man from Perth who was working in a pawnbroker shop before joining FutureFit.

"At 33, I never thought I wanted to go for an apprenticeship," said Mr Thompson, who is currently 10 months into a maintenance apprenticeship at the academy.

"It was one of those things that I thought was out of my grasp.

"But with FutureFit apprenticeships being closer to two years, and based here in Perth, it was something that I jumped at the opportunity to get on board with.

Mr Thompson said the guarantee of a permanent job was too big a lure to turn down.

"I don't think I would've even gone for a career change if it wasn't for the fact there was a guaranteed job at the end of the day," he said.

"A four-year apprenticeship seems daunting, and there are not many places that will even take you on at this age.

"But based on the premise of two years, and a paid role with BHP afterwards, I just couldn't turn it down.

"It's just good to work for a company like BHP – I never thought I'd have the opportunity."

Officially opening the new Perth academy on Tuesday, BHP Australia President Geraldine Slattery said the company's $300 million commitment to create a pipeline of future talent in highly-skilled roles would help support productivity and keep the economy strong.

"Minerals and mining are critical to Australia's economy and the global energy transition," she said.

"We have an enormous opportunity but also challenges to overcome to keep competing in the global arena, among them the need to build the skills needed in a modern mining sector."

Through its two academies in WA and Mackay in Central Queensland, the BHP FutureFit Academy is creating 2,500 new traineeships and apprenticeships over five years, with entrants joining BHP in permanent roles upon graduation.

The purpose-built learning academies feature immersive virtual reality technology combined with workshop learning for trainees to develop skills and knowledge.

They are fully equipped to simulate the workplace, including disability access and parent and prayer rooms.

"We're thrilled to have welcomed more than 1,100 people to the FutureFit program and more than 500 graduates into permanent jobs with BHP," said Ms Slattery, who was joined at the opening by Skills and Training federal minister Brendan O'Connor and WA Community Service minister Simone McGurk.

"Through an innovative approach to training and employment, we've opened the door to a more diverse talent pool, especially people from non-mining backgrounds who want to reskill or pursue a new career."

FutureFit last year expanded its curriculum to deliver the apprentice program for BHP's iron ore and Nickel West operations in WA.

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