Holistic skills addressing regional needs

September 2023

Now in its fourth year, the Heavy Industry Multi Skills (HIMS) pre-employment program in Port Pirie, South Australia, is getting results through collaboration with TAFE SA, local major industries, and Regional Development Australia Yorke and Mid North (RDA Yorke and Mid North).

The latest intake will see graduates gain a Certificate II in Resources and Infrastructure qualification, welding skills set as well as the vital personal development and soft skills necessary to take up positions within the supporting industry partners.

HIMS is currently supported by the South Australian Government through SkillsSA, with RDA Yorke and Mid North managing and coordinating the program.

Regional co-operation

The HIMS Project Advisory Group includes eight local heavy industry employers who have developed the program, together with TAFE SA and RDA Yorke and Mid North. The program is tailored to meet their specific needs.

Nyrstar’s Port Pirie plant is one of the world’s largest multi-metal processing facilities. As part of the Project Advisory Group, Nyrstar has been actively engaged in local employment issues to address their own and wider industry needs.

“We’d exhausted the skilled workforce here but had high unemployment. So that’s an untapped source of labour. HIMS was born to upskill local people, to benefit the region. There are direct employment results, and positions are also made available for others as HIMS graduates step up.

We have a reliable training delivery partner in TAFE SA, they’re a good fit and there for our business and for the region. They’ve been very flexible.

The advisory group’s involvement shows the high regard local big businesses have for this program.”

“One of the best things about HIMS is the local engagement. Everyone’s passionate. All the right people are in the room, giving everyone ownership. We discuss the training required for each industry, what skill sets to incorporate, what funding is available.

Students receive training that applies to a broad range of industries. These employers aren’t in it just for themselves, they see the big picture for the community.”

“We’re all motivated and committed to the same objective. In regions, relationships are so important. We're bringing all the stakeholders on the journey. It’s about how we all help each other to achieve success.”

Personal and skills development

HIMS students have ranged in age from 17 to 60 years old and typically start the program having struggled with multiple and complex barriers to employment and study. The program supports the students to overcome these barriers and succeed in a workplace environment. An intensive interview process selects 15 students for each intake.

“We're not just delivering accredited training, we’re big on life skills too. It’s different to other pre-employment programs.

Every morning they see their mentor, do a breathalyser test and safety huddle to get them into the habit of that happening on-site.

It’s holistic case management. We do workshops on drugs and alcohol, mental health, budgeting and finance and resumes. Our industry partners participate in mock interviews, site visits and induction days. Students walk away with everything they need to commence entry level positions - hands-on and personal skills.”

“I’ve been an avid supporter of HIMS from the beginning, it makes a difference. I’m on the Regional Jobs and Skills Task Force. HIMS helps address our goal of solving generational unemployment. Some students are the first in their family to study and get a job. You see their proud families at graduations.”

TAFE SA responsiveness

“RDA Yorke and Mid North has had a long, mutually supportive relationship with our local TAFE. They’re understanding and very flexible. We can say ‘this is an issue, this is a barrier, what can we do? How can we work together to address these concerns?’ TAFE SA have always come to the table for us.

There’s a fantastic campus here in Port Pirie. Students have a comfortable, safe place to learn. They can hire a laptop, sit in the library, catch up on their studies there.”

“HIMS helps put the TAFE SA brand out there. It brings employers onto campus. They see the quality of training we deliver. Often, we're seeing HIMS students back as apprentices. We get flow-on business.

TAFEs are so important in regional areas, and especially effective when we work with local employers collectively.”