Chair In Automation and Future Work Skills

The Chair in Automation and Future Work Skills role was established to focus on the impact of automation on regional cities and communities. The role is funded by our University and BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) to coordinate research, outreach and engagement with relevant industries across Queensland, as well as to drive the development of new innovative training qualifications and courses in automation and new workplace skills beyond the mining sector, including in METS, Agriculture, SMEs and Construction.

The purpose of the partnership between BMA and the University is to bring people and resources together to unlock and accelerate skills, training and educational outcomes for the future in the communities of which they are part.

Pictured: Rob Brown, Associate Vice-President (North Queensland), BMA Chair – Automation & Future Work Skills, Director - Regional University Centres

Current projects

The Chair in Automation and Future Work Skills role was established to focus on the impact of automation on regional cities and communities. The role is funded by our University and BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) to coordinate research, outreach and engagement with relevant industries across Queensland, as well as to drive the development of new innovative training qualifications and courses in automation and new workplace skills beyond the mining sector, including in METS, Agriculture, SMEs and Construction.

The purpose of the partnership between BMA and the University is to bring people and resources together to unlock and accelerate skills, training and educational outcomes for the future in the communities of which they are part.

Head over to BMA's YouTube Channel to learn more about BMA Community Contribution - CQUniversity Future of Work.

Identify and map training delivery available for regional communities to fully participate in future work opportunities, as per key recommendation #3 (and #7) of the GW3 Future Employment Study.

Offer micro-credentials (see Queensland Future Skills Partnership) to support digital foundations for the existing workforce, as per key recommendation #2 (a) and (b) of the GW3 Future Employment Study.

Together with stakeholders prepare submission for the Australian Coal Industry’s Research Program (ACARP) Project.

Working with Resources Centre of Excellence on a case study, titled ‘Regional collaboration, the key to community empowerment and workforce transitioning towards I 4.0’.

Automation at CQU with Pierre Viljoen, Inaugural Chair of Automation and Future Work Skills


Brianna (00:00):

You're listening to 4RFM and earlier on in the week, Elena and I were lucky enough to have a chat with the Chair of Automation at CQUni, Pierre Viljoen and he was out here for a Smart Transformation Mining and Agricultural Round Table. So we did chat to him on the day of the round table before he attended. That puts a little bit of context around the interview. He's a really, really interesting guy and has got lots of expertise around automation and just looking at what the future holds, I guess, when it comes to our careers and our community. And I definitely think this is something that we will be chatting about more in years to come, especially with the impacts of this net zero emissions on our mining communities and how we're really gonna have to rally as a community to work through some of these changes together. Pierre will give us a little bit of information around that.

Pierre (01:17):

Firstly, thank you very much to Smart Transformation for actually making this opportunity available here in the Moranbah Community. I've driven out here today from Mackay and been invited to speak this afternoon at the Mining and Ag Round Table specifically on the future skills agenda and I hope that we can talk about that a little bit more today as well.

Elena (01:39):

So you are basically the Chair in Automation at CQ university.

Pierre (01:43):

That is correct. I've got a couple of roles. The first one is that I'm Associate Vice President for North Queensland and Hinterland. I look after the university's operations, both operationally and strategically in Mackay, as well as Townsville. That's about six and a half thousand students across both vocational as well as higher education offerings. The other part of my role 0.5 is partly sponsored by BMA as well as the university and actually is a research role around the future skills agenda.

Elena (02:15):

Yep. And that's a big issue right now, isn't it, there is so much happening in that technology space and so many opportunities.

Pierre (02:22):

Oh, definitely. I've had the role since April this year and it's been very interesting getting into it and just trying to unfold that thousand leaf petals of the flower that we are dealing with. And there's always another leaf to look under, but you're right. There's so much happening in this space and it is speeding up in such a momentous a that we have to make work of it and trying to get ahead of that curve as we move forward.

Elena (02:50):

I do think it's a bit funny. It's called Fourth Industrial Revolution when we're trying to go net zero, because you know, you think industry, you think, you know, industry, it's not how we usually envision it.

Pierre (03:00):

Well you're right. And you know, just the whole terminology around the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Are we gonna have a fifth and sixth? The seventh and eighth? Well, that's a very good question. I think maybe there's a way to think about it rather as the technology's being brought about now and what that means for the future. And really if you go and do some research on this, the Fifth Industrial Revolution is already well underway. Okay. And if you think about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, I don't think it's something coming our way. I think it is something that we are already in and it is growing and emerging around us. And you just have to go across the road to the Coles Supermarket to see the, that in action every day you do your shopping there, you know? So, um, I know we want to think about it's this big thing coming, but I really think it is something that's here already. We are living in it to some extent, the opportunity we have is to try and understand how this is going to unfold over time and how can we prepare ourselves in the best possible way to benefit from that? Because that, that is the opportunity we have as a society.

Elena (04:07):

Yeah. And do you think there's a bit of fear around it?

Pierre (04:11):

Undoubtedly, but I don't think it necessarily relates to Industrial Revolution or the Fourth Industrial Revolution necessarily. I think if it is fear, it's probably more related to a bit of resistance to change. You know, we as human beings like to have things the way it was, it gives us comfort. It's known to us. We don't have to worry about doing things differently. And I think what I sense more is that these changes coming about is making us think, well, what do I need to do differently? So I wouldn't call it a fear. I'd rather call it an anticipation. And that's good because in that anticipation also will we find the motivation to move us forward and to propel us into this future that's already unfolding around us.

Elena (04:57):

Yeah. And do you think as an older worker say, you've been driving trucks for the past 40 years and now trucks are being phased out. Is there an opportunity there to reskill?

Pierre (05:07):

Oh 100%. And you know, you refer to older workers and I'll count myself exactly in that category as well. So I think the work that I'm doing within this role, it's got a couple of league to it and I'll quickly run through those. The first one is some work around community transitioning towards Industry 4.0 because I think there's an opportunity to work with communities more broadly in how they transition from a supply chain perspective and from an organisational perspective in order to work towards Industry 4.0 emerging. And then I think in the workforce, at least in my conceptualisation, there is two parts to it. And I count myself in the one part and I tend to draw a line, let's say roundabout arbitrarily 30. If you're older than 30 today, you are a little bit in the category where I am and you're probably not a digital native, you know, even I find it hard to deal sometimes with the technology I'm faced with every day.

Pierre (06:05):

I know I need to, but it doesn't come naturally to me because I didn't grow up with an iPhone. I had my first mobile phone when I was 26 years old. So you can see that I'm at a disadvantage with, and I think about how I engage with this future. Whereas I think those in the workforce that are younger than 30 are still coming into the workforce, grown up with mobile technology, mobile phones, the whole digital evolution that we've gone through. And they're much better prepared. Now back to your question of older workers, definitely be because I think even if you draw that line arbitrarily at 30, I look at the workforce on the right hand side, let's say of the 30 year mark. And I'm thinking that that workforce of ours still have with an aging workforce, 30 to 40 years to offer to the world that they work. Now, the fact that you don't have the skill sets now doesn't mean that you can't participate in it. I think the opportunity is for older workers to recognize that, to participate in that future may require a different type of skill to identify those opportunities and then to reskill upskill retrain and be reemployed or redeployed.

Elena (07:19):

Yeah, I think that is where the opportunity sits and maybe doing it in a different way to how you would train a younger person. Like maybe it needs to be more hands on or, you know, more on, on workplace training

Pierre (07:27):

100%. I think if we are looking at workforces, coming into industries, primarily out of the school system and as they would be undergoing formal training and education, that's a completely different model than what necessarily you'd have for a workforce that's already in the workplace, well advanced in their own professions. That, and I think even the learning mechanisms that you will use, looks completely different. You probably don't wanna go back to either Uni or Tafe and re skill for another three, four years. We as educational institutions need to move quickly and be able to provide those upskilling opportunities, whether they be micro credentials or whatever the fact may be for people to be able to pick up and to build into their careers as it unfolds around

Elena (08:11):

Them. That's what I was gonna say. Will those, will the upskilling opportunities be readily available?

Pierre (08:17):

Yes, I would think yes

Elena (08:19):

And easily available I suppose, is BHP is doing a partnership with CQ youth. So that's gonna definitely help pathways.

Pierre (08:26):

So already you can see that big industry like BMA and BHP partners with a university, like my own addressing exactly this issue. That is why I've got this role I have. And will it be easy? Nothing in life is easy, but

Elena (08:43):

Easy to, easy to find is what I mean. So to access.

Pierre (08:46):

Yes. But is it worthwhile? And I think, yes. And I think universities are getting better at that. If you go and have a look at my own university and you just dig around the website there a little bit, you'll find we've got a hyperflexible learning platform now, which provides you with a range of training and education opportunities that you can access without necessarily enrolling into a degree or a diploma or whatever the fact may be. Yep. And that may be one of the mechanisms that one could use and there's a range of others. And specifically I think mobile technology and the power that mobile technology has and its availability allows us to use that as a mechanism. So if we talk about ease of access, I think that's one of the opportunities we have.

Elena (09:28):

So parents listening or high school students listening, what are some of the pathways that are, that you are seeing emerging that we probably never thought of before for, you know, away from that traditional, you know, nursing, um, engineering degrees. Yeah,

Pierre (09:41):

I think, firstly to say that I think Industry 4.0, as it unfolds, affect all industries. And I want to reiterate that. I think it affects all industries with that be health education, small and medium enterprises, Mets, mining, agriculture, defense industries. You can name them in my view, at least I think the emerging technologies that's driving Industry 4.0 affects all of those industries. So instead of trying to say what not to do and what to do, I'd rather say pick your passion. That's the most important thing for a career. Once you find your passion, be conscious of the fact that there's an emerging future, even in those careers and then try to build your skill sets so that you future proof your career. Does that make sense? Yeah, that's the way.

Elena (10:44):

And we've really seen that within community radio, just in the last two or three years. Yeah. Yeah. Challenging for some people, for me, I love studying. So it's, it is an adventure. For Elena it's a bit different. I'm more on the ‘fun outta the island’ and the study side getting there

Pierre (11:01):

But even on the fun side of the islands, there are entertainment  industry's that you could also think about.

Elena (11:06):

Yes, that's true. And like we talked, um, off air, it's interesting. You might start off going down one career thinking that's what you wanna do. Get into Uni, hate it. Um, and then somehow be guided somewhere else, you know, but you've got your foot in the door and then you've decided, you know, actually engineering wasn't suitable for me. That's um, there's always other opportunities.

Pierre (11:26):

That's right. I think the crux for me, if there's one thing that I'd say to every young person out there today, that's listening. If you want to take one thing away from today, the is one critical skill that everyone can build and that everyone should have. And it simply looks like this, a willingness to engage in lifelong learning. I would put that at number one, because even if you were to access a degree today, a degree course or a diploma or an apprenticeship or whatever the fact may be or traineeship, if you can realize that that's only the first step and no matter once I'm qualified, I will still engage for the rest of my life in a learning process. Then you already built a critical skill in surviving. Surviving. I say that in inverted commas, but future proofing your career. So I put a lifelong learning at the base as the most important thing for everyone to get to.

Elena (12:30):

I think you need to come and talk to the high school. I think that's great advice.

Pierre (12:35):

That's very good, but I think our traditional model, and I'm talking about myself out of school, what, 30, 35 years when I went there, the thinking would've been, if you engage a formal qualification, there comes a point. I distinctly remember that. Okay, so now we're done and now what am I gonna do? Well, I'm gonna work. I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna do that. Da, da, da. We didn't necessarily grow up with a mindset of lifelong learning. But I think as technology is speeding up and driving the world in different directions and to stay on top of that, you simply have to engage as a lifelong learner. And even when you walk out qualified at the highest level, whether that be trade or higher education, if you can realize that my next step is not looking at my degree on my wall, but my next step is start searching for my next developmental opportunity. You are in the right space.

Elena (13:30):

Kindred spirits. Oh it's your words coming out of his mouth, right? Brad is always making us do extra courses and things like this. That's good. So today you are here to come to the 4IR Mining and Ag Round Table. What are you hoping to take away from that today?

Pierre (13:48):

Well, firstly, I do believe that I've grown to be a lifelong learner. I am really interested to hear what some of my co-presenters will be saying about specifically the mining and the agriculture industry and where they believe things may be hitting and how we may work with communities in achieving that emerging future. Because I think that draws together the aspiration of the strategic transition advisory, as well as the work that we are all individually trying to do. So that's the first thing I would like to do is just be there as a sponge and take up because I'm no agriculturist, you know what I mean? I'm no miner. So I've always got something to learn and I think that's my first stop off. And then hopefully when I get my opportunity on stage, I can present something which somebody else haven't heard before and that may open a bit of their mind and engage us all then in that learning process. So that's my take on today.

Elena (14:50):

Excellent. Well, it is open to the community. People can pop over to the community center from 1:00 PM. Uh, it pretty much goes all afternoon, I think, to about four, 4:00 PM. Lots of different speakers. If you are interested, I think it's gonna be a great afternoon.

Pierre (15:03):

Yeah, me too. And really looking forward. As long as you can live with the South African accent, you'll be fine.

Elena (15:09):

Excellent. Well, thanks for talking to us and hopefully we'll grab you and bring you in again.

Pierre (15:17):

Fantastic. Brianna and Elena. Thank you very much. I really appreciate the time that you spent with me as well.

CQU | BMA Digital Innovation Skills Hive

The DISH is a place to showcase and promote initiatives that support the collective efforts of industry players and education providers to address the challenges of existing and emerging digital technologies and their impacts on the current and future world of work, workforces, and communities.

Made possible, in part, by the Kevin Greenwood bequest, it is a place where...

  • collaboration between industries and education providers is encouraged and promoted
  • cross-pollination of ideas is facilitated
  • innovative, future-focused solutions for the challenges of an unfolding Industry 4.0 is generated
  • new knowledge in relation to community and workforce transitioning is created
  • the projects of the CIA and its partners are showcased and promoted.

Build your Future

Building a successful and resilient workforce for the future will play a vital part in Australia’s economic recovery. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic we need to resolve skill shortages in regional areas. Skills development opportunities are here to prepare you to become the regional workforce of the future.

The Queensland Future Skills (QFS) Partnership is led by BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) and includes TAFE Queensland and CQUniversity as education partners. The partnership has been working with industry experts, community organisations and government since late 2019 to fast-track responsive co-design and delivery of training to support the implementation of autonomous technology in mining. We are seeking expressions of interest to participate in training, at no cost to participants.

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The Chair in Automation and Future Work Skills value its connections locally, in the region and abroad. Our partnerships help us create opportunities and deliver solutions that enhance the automation and technology capabilities of the resource sectors, METS industries and regional communities and aims to build and strengthen an ecosystem of research centers, universities, government, industry players and skills bodies. Connect with us to collaborate or find out more.

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Major Sponsor and Partner

The Chair of Automation and Future Work Skills has been made possible thanks to a generous funding package from BMA.

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