WA10BP196 - RPL online for the mining industry

Challenger Institute of Technology’s, Australian Centre for Energy Process Training (ACEPT)

Executive Summary


The Challenger Institute of Technology’s Australian Centre for Energy and Process Training (ACEPT) is the leading provider of process operations training.

Challenger ACEPT has been working with the mining industry to find ways to ensure existing workers in remote locations have the opportunity to have their skills validated and gain the formal certification required to ensure a long and successful career in the industry.

For this project Challenger ACEPT is working in collaboration with the Birla Nifty Copper Operation (BNCO) and its workers, in the East Pilbara region of WA, to develop and implement an online and onsite (Recognition of Prior Learning) RPL process that will reduce unnecessary face-to-face contact as well as the time it currently takes for RPL assessment to take place.


Western Australia is experiencing sustained economic growth leading to strong demand for skilled workers. To meet this demand and the needs of individual students and employers Challenger Institute of Technology is focused on building the capacity to provide flexible, customised and responsive services.

The Challenger Institute of Technology’s Australian Centre for Energy and Process Training (ACEPT) is already the leading provider of process operations training, offering qualifications for the Australian oil and gas, mineral and chemical processing industries.

The mining industry has embarked on a program to have operators and technicians certified in the requisite topic areas to ensure a sustainable skilled workforce. In many instances, operators have been carrying out their activities over a number of years without a formal qualification. Technicians on the other hand usually require a qualification within their trade area to obtain employment.

For this project Challenger ACEPT is working with BNCO , the principal asset of Aditya Birla Minerals, to introduce and implement a user friendly RPL (Recognition of Prior learning) system for existing workers.

BNCO is located in the Great Sandy Desert Region of the East Pilbara in Western Australia, approximately 1,250 km north of Perth and 350 km east of Port Hedland. The operation comprises an historical open pit oxide mine with associated processing operations.

Workers at BNCO spend a considerable amount of their off duty time at the remote location so an online process will support them by allowing them to work on their RPL applications during these onsite off duty times. It is envisaged that the online process will result in time saving for both the applicant and the assessor by allowing workers in remote locations to process an RPL application without visiting a college.

What was done

A number on site visits were made to discuss the project with BNCO management and employees. Workers were found to be keen to take part in the project however there were some concerns raised about the level of computer skills required.

A computer skills audit confirmed that low computer literacy was indeed an issue amongst a high percentage of the potential RPL candidates. There were also some difficulties with candidates readily gaining access to computers. This meant the need for a review of the on-line strategy so that the process was not too onerous for the workers. As a result it was decided not to use the e-portfolio software Mahara, as originally considered, so that RPL candidates would not have to learn a whole new set of skills just to participate.


The development of the system was further complicated by a change of management at BNCO and a turnover of supervisors and workers. There were also changes to the on-site training department. Added to the reality of day to day mining operations, where mineral production is always the primary focus, this all meant that there were some significant challenges with maintaining momentum during the first few months of the project.

After further consultation it was decided to develop a system using downloadable documentation, via Moodle, where candidates can capture the information required to show competency against a qualification. This gives candidates the option of accessing and using the materials in both electronic and hardcopy format. All candidates are also
issued with their own USB flash drive to store their own electronic records of their documentation.

Challenger ACEPT sought advice and contracted ISEA Holdings Pty Ltd (ISEA), now trading as Skillsmap, for their expertise and input into simplifying online process documentation.

The documentation required the formulation of specific questions for the different skills in a way that they could be answered yes or no. Provision was also made for an assessor to verify identified skills. See the attached ‘’ for an overview of the process.

Benefits experienced by Challenger Institute of Technology's ACEPT

From an RTO perspective this project highlighted how the Challenger ACEPT project team were able to successfully apply reflective practice to address constant change and explore innovative solutions to reduce risk and improve efficiency.

Experiences with this project broadened the delivery and management team’s skills and Challenger will build on this experience to engage in similar projects with other companies.

The benefits extended to BNCO management who now have an appreciation and raised awareness of the fluid and agile working environment of the training, assessment and support team.

Lessons learnt

In general, we found that working with mining companies things can happen slowly and patience is necessary. We found that personal contact with the workers to let them know how things were progressing was very important and appreciated.

Project management requires better identification of clients and earlier access on site to confirm required resources stated for the project were available.

There is also a strong case for narrowing the focus or scope of similar projects, ie reducing the number of trades and qualifications.

The results

  • A useable system is now in place to allow workers in remote areas to process an RPL application whilst on site.
  • 30 RPL candidates have been enrolled, and will complete the program.
  • The project shell, and model developed will be the basis for future programs.

Project outputs

  • An online RPL model for local, remote and overseas clients. The attached.zip file contains an example of the RPL documentation and Moodle instructions.
  • A number of workers are engaged in the online process and their gap training has been identified.

Framework connection

The national training system’s e-learning strategy, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework funds and supports E-learning Innovations projects which aim to embed e-learning into the national training system by supporting and enabling innovation in training design and delivery, at the state and territory level.

This project allows workers that would otherwise have difficulty accessing training achieve qualifications under the AQTF framework.


This is a Western Australian E-learning Innovations project output, developed by Challenger Institute of Technology, with seed funding from the Framework.

For more information


Greg Guppy
Director Defense and Resource Industries
E-learning through scenarios and 3D models
Challenger Institute of Technology
Phone: 08 9494 8902
Email: greg.guppy@challenger.wa.edu.au

For more information on the Australian Flexible Learning Framework:
Phone: (07) 3307 4700


SavePreviewText Editor