First recruits set to hit the tracks at new WA mining rail academy

Did you have a childhood dream of becoming a train driver? If so, BHP’s Rail Academy Traineeship program could be just the ticket. 

BHP recently welcomed the first 54 of its recruits to the Academy as part of a plan to train 200 train drivers over the next three years to keep up with the global demand for resources.  

Recruits will undergo an intensive 10-month training program to learn specialist skills in train shunting, communication systems and signaling, route planning, and safety and fatigue management. 

Academy graduates will eventually be responsible for transporting 40,000 tonnes of ore in each train across more than 1000km of track that connects the company’s Pilbara operations to Port Hedland. 

“You’re one person towing 40,000 tonnes worth of iron ore,” Rail Academy Supervisor Kenleigh Wilson said. 

“It’s huge, the power behind that is incredible. And you’re in charge of it, you’re the one person…I feel like it sits at the top of the food chain in BHP.” 

BHP’s WA Iron Ore Asset President, Brandon Craig said the program would help address critical skills shortages and help new people enter the mining and resources sector. 

The trainees will qualify with a Certificate IV in train driving. 

“Our train drivers are a vital part of our pit to port value chain and the new traineeships will create rewarding careers for our new recruits,” Craig said. 

“The program also demonstrates our commitment to create jobs and prosperity in regional WA, with the training based at our rail headquarters in Port Hedland.”

Each of the trains can carry 40,000 tonnes of ore.

Modelling commissioned by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA in June found the sector could need as many as 40,000 new workers by 2023 and faced a skills shortage of up to 33,000 if the situation was not addressed. 

WA premier Mark McGowan commend BHP for investing in future employment opportunties for Western Australians. 

“We will continue to work closely with industry to develop opportunities to build Western Australia’s workforce – to create local jobs and continue to support the growth of our resources sector,” McGowan said. 

More than 5000 people applied to join the Rail Academy, which is one of a number of avenues BHP offers as an entry to the sector, including school-based traineeships in the Pilbara, mature age traineeships, and  maintenance traineeships and apprenticeships at the FutureFit academy 

Main image by Kevin Michel, MLA.