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Roy Hill has suggested filling vacant mining roles with out-of-work airline pilots to combat the resource sector’s growing skills shortage.

Roy Hill chief executive officer Gerhard Veldsman spoke at the Diggers & Dealers mining forum this week about how the company is aiming to attract and retain its workforce.

According to Veldsman, Roy Hill’s New to Mining program is combatting the skills crisis by recruiting workers outside of the industry.

Roy Hill has targeted former defence personnel and Qantas airline pilots through the program.

“If you’re an international pilot you’re used to 12-hour shifts,” Veldsman said. “And a big Hitachi truck fully loaded weighs basically the same as an Airbus 380.”

The skills crisis has been elevated by international travel restrictions, interstate border closures and lockdowns.

Western Australia’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) revealed in June that an additional 40,000 skilled workers would be required over the next two years across the state.

CME stated that a peak shortfall of 33,000 workers could be expected during the skills shortage.

“There just isn’t a magic wand by which we can suddenly conjure up tens of thousands of Western Australians with the qualifications and experience needed within the timeframe the market needs them,” CME chief executive officer Paul Everingham said in June.

Annual and quarterly reports from miners including MinRes have flagged the material impacts that labour shortages are causing on its productivity.

Diggers & Dealers chairman Jim Walker said encouraged fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) mining workers to take rostered breaks within Western Australia to avoid the impact of interstate border closures and lockdowns.

Walker, who is chair of the State Training board, the peak advisory body to the Western Australian government, said apprenticeships and traineeships would take several years to boost the labour shortages.

However, the industry is expecting longevity through its next wave of new recruits.

“That’s a difference now with people taking on apprentices and trainees,” Walkers said.

“They can see some longevity in where we are. There’s a lot more visibility than we’ve had for a long time.”

IGO has supported the Centre of Resources Excellence’s CoRE Learning Foundation which provides science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs for graduates.

“This unique initiative provides developmental opportunities and arms students with the tools they need for real-life training, ”IGO executive officer Peter Bradford said.

“We are exposing the younger generation to the many benefits of working in the mining industry, thus creating a pipeline of talented and diverse young people with a growing interest in STEM.”