A regional skills summit will be held in Port Hedland as the State Government continues to address the State’s skills shortage.

The first of 10 regional summits was held in Bunbury, following on from the Premier’s State Skills Summit in July.

Premier Mark McGowan referenced the Port Hedland summit during a trip to Port Hedland in August.

As part of the visit, Mr McGowan met recruits from BHP’s new Rail Academy Traineeship Program at Nelson Point.

BHP will train and employ 200 train drivers over the next three years.

Mr McGowan said the program had strong alignment with the Government’s WA Jobs Plan – which focuses on preferencing local jobs, reducing interstate FIFO, enhancing TAFE and training, and creating jobs in regional Western Australia.

More than 5000 people applied for the program, demonstrating the huge interest there is in local employment and skills development in the mining industry.

The first two crews of 54 drivers have completed the BHP Basics course and have now moved on the Operational Services content.

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

At the end of the training, they will qualify with a certificate IV in train driving.

BHP, Western Australian Iron Ore Asset President, Brandon Craig said: “We are committed to doing our part to address critical skills shortages and create new pathways for people to enter the mining industry.”

Recruits, supervisors and even GM Rail Warren Well-beloved got a selfie with the Premier as he and Transport Minister Rita Saffioti donned their hi-vis and PPE to see loco 4496 up close.

During the same visit, Mr McGowan also announced details of a $31.5 million contract for the first of two ‘road over rail’ projects in Port Hedland.

The contract for the Buttweld Road ‘road-over-rail’ bridge was won by a joint venture between Highway Construction and Albem Operations.

It is part of an estimated $68 million package of works split into three phases:

  • Construction of a 34m bridge over BHP’s rail line south of Buttweld Road bridge.
  • Closure of Powell Road and construction of traffic roundabouts at the Dalton and Hamilton roads intersections. The roundabouts will be built either side of the rail line and complement the ‘road-over-rail’ bridges by removing access over the rail crossing.
  • Construction of a 31m ‘road-over-rail’ bridge on the Port Hedland Airport Deviation at the Nelson Point main level crossing on Great Northern Highway.

Main Roads will manage the works with total funding for the road-over-rail projects provided by BHP ($45.26 million), the Commonwealth Government ($18.2 million) and the State Government ($4.54 million).

Mr Craig said the work would improve safety at level rail crossings and provide jobs to the local community while allowing travel around Port Hedland to become more efficient.