Mentoring to stimulate metallurgical/process engineers

Continuing the discussions about initiatives to overcome the Australian mineral industry skill shortages, METS (Minerals Engineering Technical Services) has developed a new mentoring program. Jason Stirbinkis, General Manager explains: “Young metallurgists or process engineers and the companies that employ them face a quandary.”

For the metallurgist it’s “I want the responsibility and breadth that a small or remote operation will give me but who would be around to learn and develop from? ” For the company it’s “How to give the young engineer a challenging role in a remote area and meet their desire for professional development and to learn from an experienced metallurgist. From the Senior Metallurgist it’s “I’d like a graduate engineer but I am too busy (and spread too thin) to dedicate time to their development and continually QA their work.

Stirbinkis suggests that there hasn’t really been an answer so the young metallurgist is forced to leave to get the experience and development or focus on the larger companies with graduate development programs across multiple operations.

METS recently launched its Mentoring program to address this issue. The five METS Senior Metallurgists are the Mentors and all have a minimum of 35 years in the industry.

The Mentor Program works by providing a solution the is completely customised to the company’s requirements and the development needs of the Engineer, but could involve:

  • Regular visits from the METS mentor to present on particular topics
  • Developing a program of work (research, site projects, monitoring and optimisation, metallurgical accounting, etc.) that the engineer works through with support from the Mentor
  • Attending METS courses
  • Phone support
  • Working in the METS office on METS assignments, etc.

“In the current skills climate it is important to motivate and retain young professionals and ensure they develop and learn quickly as they are required to take on increasingly more critical roles, often with little support. Our solution addresses this issue and has additional ‘upside’,” Stirbinskis, said. “It is obvious that the Mentor Program could provide numerous advantages – it’s a retention, motivation and reward strategy; it accesses METS expertise for site projects but ensures a site person acquires the knowledge and decreases the consulting ‘fee’, it exposes their team to best practice and their succession plan has potentially become ‘super-charged’.

METS believes that while mentoring arrangements exist in some large companies and for other professions, the issue with metallurgy and process engineering is that there is rarely more than one experienced metallurgist on a project and sometimes there are none. The result is the young engineer is deprived of development, becomes disenchanted and moves on.

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