By Stephanie Gilmore and Lee-Anne Spinks, Thiess Australia East Operations Communication team

Skills shortages continue to plague industries throughout Australia and the need to tap into and attract a more diverse workforce has generated a wide range of industry programs and initiatives.

Thiess’ Mt Arthur South operations is striving for a new era of inclusivity in the mining industry with its innovative Mt Arthur South Indigenous and Inclusiveness Trainee Employment (MASITE) Program.

Launched in March 2021, the MASITE Program offers comprehensive 12-month traineeships and aims to encourage Indigenous and female candidates from the local community to pursue careers in mining. Since its inception, the program has not only helped shift the culture at the Mt Arthur South site, but has also earned industry recognition for the results it has achieved.

Program structure and training

A key aim of the MASITE Program is to attract fresh talent to mining by focusing on candidates who are new to the industry, with program trainees coming from various backgrounds, ages and life experiences, enriching the workplace with their unique perspectives.

During the 12-month traineeship, participants gain both theoretical knowledge and practical skills under the guidance of experienced mentors and trainers. The program aims to equip trainees with the expertise they’d need to thrive in mining operations while also fostering a sense of community and inclusivity.

The training hub also features traditional Indigenous artworks from the Polly Farmer Foundation and a yarning circle, offering a welcoming space where trainees can learn and connect with one another.

On successful completion, participants earn a Certificate III in Surface Extraction, CAT 793 rear dump truck skills, light vehicle competency and a first-aid certificate. This training ensures trainees enter the workforce well prepared for the demands of the mining industry.

One of the first female Indigenous program participants, who has progressed to the position of Dispatch Officer, Isabella Ford, said “It has been an amazing opportunity to grow a career with a supportive group of people. The MASITE program has allowed me to gain so many new skills and has set me on the right path for my career. I feel excited about the future.”

Impact on diversity

Since its launch, 122 individuals have participated in the MASITE program, including 73 women and 57 who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The increased diversity has had a positive effect on the Mt Arthur South site’s culture, with female representation growing to 23.7 per cent and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation rising to 11.2 per cent.

The program has a high conversion rate of trainees to permanent roles at Thiess, with 92 per cent of MASITE trainees making the transition to permanent employment after completing the program.

Mt Arthur South Project Manager, John Hamson, said, “We created the MASITE program to bring new opportunities to underrepresented groups in the mining industry. Our goal was to encourage Indigenous and female candidates from the local community to pursue a career in mining. The success we’ve seen – both in terms of participant outcomes and industry recognition – is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our entire team.”

The high conversion rate from traineeship to permanent employment has led to the trainees becoming valued members of the team.

“For many participants, this program has been life-changing, providing a new pathway to rewarding careers and creating a brighter future for them and their families,” Mr Hamson said.

Recognition and future expansion

The MASITE Program’s impact has not gone unnoticed.

At the 2024 NSW Women in Mining Awards, the MASITE program won the ’Excellence in Company Programs and Performance’ award, further underscoring its positive impact on the mining industry.

Looking ahead, Thiess plans to continue onboarding between 48 and 72 new MASITE trainees in 2024, in a sustained commitment to expanding the program. Other Thiess operations on the east coast of Australia have expressed interest in adopting the program, with discussions underway to expand its reach. Although each site has unique challenges and requirements, the core principles of the MASITE Program – including its focus on inclusivity and comprehensive training – can guide broader implementation.

The MASITE Program’s success at Thiess’ Mount Arthur South site can serve as an example of how targeted programs can help drive positive change in the mining industry. By focusing on diversity and inclusion, the program has helped to improve the site’s culture while providing valuable training and employment opportunities for women and Indigenous Australians. With ongoing support and plans for expansion, the MASITE Program is expected to continue its positive impact, paving the way for a more inclusive future in mining.

Featured image: (L-R) Bill Kitching, Sheree Jenkins, Isabella Shephard, John Hamson and Tom Carroll at the NSW Women in Mining Awards. Image: NSW Mining


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