Premier Steven Marshall cut the ribbon to officially open the company’s Underground School of Excellence – dubbed the “School of Rock” – at the mine near Roxby Downs this morning.
In total, 87 students have already completed the five-week course offered at the school, which unofficially opened about six months ago.
The mining company flew just over a dozen journalists and camera operators, the Premier, communications staff and Olympic Dam employees to the site for a tour and the launch.
The school is located 450 metres below the surface.
The students who go through the program come from industries outside of mining.
Josephine Breede, who worked as a passenger services agent for Adelaide Airport before attending the school, said the environment at Olympic Dam was extremely supportive.
“Being part of the mine school, I’ve been almost transitioned into the underground environment … so that u know a little bit more about what’s happening,” she said.
Lisa Wing, a former barista, said it was a “big jump” going into the mining industry.
“I came down here and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” she said.
Asked to describe what training for new workers looked like before the school opened, Olympic Dam Asset President Laura Tyler said: “They got given a buddy and put on the job, pretty much”.
“It would take them three or four months before they would really get kind of job-ready.”
But the school, she said, made new employees “feel engaged, and that we actually care for them”.
“They feel confident, they feel able to challenge.
“You give someone a bit of capability and they feel more confident to ask the right questions.”
Tyler said the number of injuries among new workers had fallen since the school began training people, and that the program had been attracting a more diverse workforce to work at the mine.
Marshall said BHP’s fortunes were vital to South Australia’s future success.
“What were seeing here us a massive investment … to train up the next generation,” he said.
Olympic Dam employs about 4000 workers.
Employees work seven day-on, seven day-off shifts within the underground mine’s 700-kilometre network of tunnels.
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