How to get a Job as an Electrician in the Mining sector in Australia
- By Kevin G. Trainer at Ausinet – 28 February 2020 – Australian Institute of Electrotechnology
Electricians play a very significant role in the mining industry in Australia. Mining industries rely heavily on process automation to reduce labour costs as it’s not easy to find qualified technicians in remote locations.
Working as an Electrician in the Mining Industry
Mining industries rely heavily on process automation to reduce labour costs as it’s not easy to find qualified technicians in remote locations. If a plant was located in town then rarely would the plant owner hire a full time Electrician. Since their location is often remote, most mining companies hire on-site electricians to ensure that electrical systems and equipment remain operational and safe for use.
To become successful as an electrician in the mining sector, you must learn what the job entails and what necessary qualifications you need to acquire to be adept in this highly competitive area.
What does a mining electrician do?
Mining electricians perform the tasks that maintenance electricians commonly do. The key difference is that the mining environment is generally more hazardous than other commercial or domestic maintenance jobs.
The mining electrician’s job is to install, troubleshoot and handle the upkeep of electrical systems and equipment in the mines. They are expected to respond to issues promptly because mining equipment is subject to wear and tear daily. The electrician needs specialised skills to repair breakdowns to ensure that the mining processes run smoothly.
Aside from being physically fit, the mining electrician is also expected to be able to work well under pressure, especially since work can last as long as 12 hours per shift. If you want to be a sparky in this field, you should be able to handle working in the adverse conditions with other miners and remain focused and alert all the time to handle issues at a moment’s notice.
Duties and Responsibilities of a mining electrician
· Maintain and repair electrical equipment, system, and process control
· Ensure that the power in the mines is functional in all areas
· Support start-up and commission activities throughout the engineering phase
· Maintain switches, wiring, circuits, lighting and other electrical components and devices used in the mining site
· Carry out technical functions such as high-voltage switching, electrical fitting, and electronics, Instrumentation and field automation
· Monitor safety practices especially those near any electrical outlet and adhere to safety and occupational health regulations
· Plan Electrical shutdowns
· Understand and interpret Electrical system layout and read wiring diagrams
· Maintain the integrity of electrical systems
· Test and tag electrical appliances, tools and power for defects and safety
· Assist in analysis and troubleshooting of system faults
· Wear safety gear and equipment in compliance with company policies at all times
· Comply with risk assessments before work commencement
· And many more…
How do you qualify as a mining electrician?
All electrical work in Australia requires a valid Electrical licence for that state. To work in the mines as an electrician, you must possess an Unrestricted Electrical Licence duly recognized by the national government. To obtain this, you must undergo an apprenticeship of four years working closely under a supervision of an experienced Electrician. You need to enrol into an Electrotechnology course to learn the theory while the practical knowledge and skills can be achieved through hands-on experience with an Electrician.
You will need to undergo structured training under UEE30811 Certificate III in Electrotechnology to get a good understanding of foundational knowledge that every electrician should have.
After you have completed your 4-year apprenticeship as an Electrician you will need to obtain further qualification in Hazardous areas and Instrumentation field and in many cases HV switching as well. Gone are the days when there was big crew of Electricians with specific demarcation of jobs. It was inefficient and not economical for the Employer to have so many electricians sitting around and waiting for a specific breakdown. Most Electricians these days have to be multiskilled. If one has done his apprenticeship in a particular mine for the 4 years then he is already skilled in maintaining that mine but if he has to change jobs then he will need to demonstrate that he has the ability to look after Hazardous area, instrumentation and HV switching. If you have the experience you can get your skills recognised by a reputable RTO. This procedure costs money and is time consuming but way better than going to school for another 4 years.
Although it seems frivolous to get these qualifications when you already have the experience. Most employers will not entertain your application until you have a formal certificate. There 2 main reasons to get these qualifications. First the employergets hundreds of applications for the job and these Certificates help them segregate the candidates. Usually the person shortlisting the candidates is not a technical person rather a HR person or commonly called the ‘gatekeeper’. The gatekeeper needs to see these qualifications so they can short list you. Second reason is that Employers are bound by company policies and insurance policies. It forces them to employ trained personnel. The easiest way to achieve that is to hire professionals rather than training them onsite. This is one of the major reasons for the emergence of the private RTOs. The public RTO like the TAFE could not keep up with the demand of required trades people whereas private RTOs that could customise the training to suit the employer needs did. The private RTOs today hold majority share in the Vocational education sector due to availability of training all year round. Check out my other article on the difference between Private RTO and Public RTO – the good bad and ugly for further information.
Now that you have completed your apprenticeship, first on yourlist should be EEHA qualification. The mining industry is set in a hazardous environment, which means that you would require the nationally recognised UEE42611 Certificate IV in Hazardous AreasElectrical. Having this qualification lets employers know that you understand the risks involvedin the mines and the explosive nature thereof.
You also need vast knowledge in instrumentation automation and process control as an electrician in the mines. Although not all Electricians require this qualification or knowledge to work in this industry.Lately, it has become the norm for many employers to ask for it. Employers will expect you to have the qualifications UEE40411 Certificate IVin Electrical Instrumentation and/orUEE31211 Certificate III in Instrumentation and Control.
A certain level of up skilling helps you become a preferable candidate in the mining industry. To better your chances as a mining electrician you could enrol at Ausinet, where gap training is provided to achieve these qualifications.
Major Mining Companies in Australia
There are many mining companies in Australia and a large number of them have offices in Western Australia and the Northern Territory where several important mine sites are situated. Darwin and Perth are known to be gateways for workers who want to get into the industry. Some of the mining companies include:
· South 32
If you are an Instrumentation Electrician, a lot of opportunities will be available to you, especially in the mining industry where dealing with process automation is daily routine. If you have the right qualifications, motivation and the willingness to learn about this industry you will probably make it as a mining Inlec. It is also important to have good references from your previous employment experiences or your trainer. Keep looking on employment websites and ask around. In many cases word of mouth can help. Apart from the technical knowledge I hate to say this but more often than not “it’s not what you know but who you know”
Don’t be disheartened and keep at it as eventually you will get a break. Make sure to have the following tickets ready when the day comes
Blue Card – (Workplace Health and safety Induction for a Particular state)
Unrestricted Electrical License
Working at heights
Working in Confined Space
Elevated work platform
LVR – Low voltage rescue
CPR – Cardio Pulmonary resuscitation
First Aid rescue – preferred
The courses in blue can be completed at AUSINET or at many of the other Public or Private RTOs locally within your state. Whether public or private RTO be careful when selecting your training organisation. There are many good RTOs out there but just as many bad ones. Get a reference from a fellow worker or a past student. Do not just book your course without doing your research. If you do, there is a good chance that you will be throwing your money down the drain although you will end up with a qualification. Don’t be the guy who got his ticket out of the cornflake box. Check out my other article on the difference between Private RTO and Public RTO – the good bad and ugly for further information.