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Rio Tinto’s Future Minds Accelerator program has provided future skills courses to kindergarten to year 12 students and educators in Western Australia.

The Future Minds program ran from September 7 to 25, providing free remote classes at Parburdoo, Dampier and Baynton West Primary Schools in the Pilbara, along with seven schools in the Western Cape and Northern Peninsula regions.

Rio Tinto has provided $10 million to fund the four-year program, with the aim of teaching young Australians the skills they will need for future jobs.

Each startup was given a $50,000 grant from the mining giant, plus training and mentoring from BlueChilli startup accelerator, and up to $100,000 in Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) credits for startups.

“Our world is ever-changing and it is important, now more than ever, to equip children with the skills they will need for a digital future,” Rio Tinto Weipa acting general manager of operations Dan Kelleher said.

“We are helping to prepare young people by providing regional communities in the Western Cape access to programs like the Future Minds Accelerator that focus on critical thinking, problem solving, systems design and data analytics – all skills required to thrive in the careers of tomorrow.”

Skills in artificial intelligence and robotics, smart cities, sustainability, online game development, virtual reality, career readiness, entrepreneurship, teamwork, imagination, physical health and mental health were some of the areas focussed on with the Future Minds program.

The Future Minds Advisory Council of Australian education, innovation and business leaders is led by David Gonski, who welcomed the initiative.

“Now more than ever equal access to education is important for regional and remote areas of Australia,” he said.

“I am delighted that the startups from the Future Minds Accelerator are helping bridge that gap and building these future skills in our young Australians.”