Vacation students seize the opportunity to develop real-world mining experience

In November last year, 72 university students, some returning home to the north west and others coming from across Queensland and interstate, embarked on a three-month, full-time work placement at Mount Isa Mines (MIM) and Ernest Henry Mining (EHM).

The Vacation Student Program is one of the many pathway programs offered by Glencore aimed at enriching learning experiences and growing talent. It provides paid, on-the-job work placement to students studying full-time at university.

Glencore employs students in roles such as metallurgy, engineering, accounting, information technology and many other mining related disciplines across Mount Isa Mine, George Fisher Mine and Ernest Henry Mining sites.

Administration and labouring positions are also available for local students returning home for their end of year break who study disciplines unrelated to mining.

Undertaking her second placement on the Vacation Program, Grace Chiu joined the Technical Services Department at EHM in a Mining Engineering role. Grace is currently studying a Bachelor of Mining Engineering and Bachelor of Commerce at the University of New South Wales.

Travelling from Sydney to the dusty red reaches of north west Queensland Grace immersed herself in the outback lifestyle to embrace the mining industry experience.

"University provides a basis for your understanding, but only by working in the industry do you truly understand the ins and outs of mining," Grace says.

"As a vacation student I have learned a lot, but there is still a long way to go. I have an appreciation of the immense amount of coordination and communication required between different areas of the Technical Services Department."

"During my time with the Technical Services team I have also learnt how to use Deswick, a mining software program that will be a useful skill to have going into the future."

"I love the people at EHM and I'm very happy to say I've become friends with the other vacation students over the summer break," says Grace.

Stephanie Jackson, Superintendent Human Resources, North Queensland Copper Assets says a HR Masterclass was held with students to talk about their time at Glencore and how to build the experience into developing their future careers.

Towards the end of the placement term students were offered the opportunity to gain cross-site familiarity where those based at MIM and EHM swapped places for a tour of the different operations.

"The tours provided students with broader exposure to various aspects of the business and allowed them to engage with a wider range of mining professionals."

"The tours also presented valuable networking opportunities with other students on the Vacation Program," says Stephanie.

EHM students undertook an underground tour of the iconic Mount Isa Copper Operations, while the larger group of MIM students were split across three areas, touring EHM's concentrator, underground operations and surface operations.

Callum Trace, who hails from Maroochydore, completed his Bachelor of Environmental Science at the University of the Sunshine Coast in 2019. Callum applied to the Glencore Vacation Program to gain an insight into the mining industry and to learn from experienced mentors.

"The best thing about the program was being assigned a project that enabled me to work independently and engage with different areas across the business," Callum says.

"I collected data for the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) which allowed me to work out in the field, use my initiative and take ownership of the task."

"My time with the Environmental team in Mount Isa has allowed me to learn new field skills and establish contacts which will be very valuable as I start out in my career."

As the program ended, students attended a networking barbeque with members of the Senior Management teams and current graduates across the copper and zinc businesses. Graduates shared their knowledge with the vacation students in an informative Q&A session before they headed back to university studies or, for some, to pursue their career.

We wish our 'Vaccies' well and hope they take with them valuable industry knowledge and fond memories of their vacation experience here in Mount Isa and at Ernest Henry Mining.