President’s opening speech to Congress 2016

  • By Rex Berthelsen FAusIMM(CP), President, AusIMM

The following is an excerpt from AusIMM President Rex Berthelsen’s FAusIMM(CP) opening speech to Congress 2016.

The AusIMM exists to develop professionalism within the mining and minerals industries. The Institute’s strategic plan has a headline statement that we all need to understand. It says:

The AusIMM develops careers and communities, we do this by providing leadership and opportunities for minerals professionals.

This is a theme that we will come back to time and again during our Congress discussions.

Everyone understands that the Institute exists to support the professional growth and development of every AusIMM member, and, by doing this, supports their career development. However, the connection to communities is something that some members and external stakeholders are less sure about. The concept is simple: by being better professionals, we improve the minerals industry’s positive impact on the community at large. This is achieved through many outcomes:

  • job creation
  • economic and social development where mining takes place
  • skills development opportunities
  • mining activities that maximise production and minimise adverse environmental and social impacts.

This concept is central to the AusIMM’s 1955 Royal Charter and to the Institute’s Code of Ethics. It is no accident that clause 1 of the Code of Ethics states:

The safety, health and welfare of the community shall be the prime responsibility of members of the AusIMM in the conduct of their professional activities.

This concept is central to the AusIMM’s existence, and the requirements of our Royal Charter and Code of Ethics ensure this is front and centre in our strategic thinking.

Rex Berthelsen FAusIMM(CP)

Congress is a unique and important event in the AusIMM calendar, and is a key part of the strategic planning cycle. It brings together leaders from across the Institute to engage in a strategic conversation and discuss the direction of the Institute and the challenges and opportunities we face. The primary goal of Congress is for our leaders to explore the big issues – the ones that will significantly affect our mission to support members to maintain their professional standards and increase their knowledge and skills.

From the Board’s perspective, Congress allows us to hear from, and work with, our leaders to ensure that the Institute is working to support members from every discipline, at every stage of their career, and at every stage of the mining cycle. The Board uses Congress discussions to inform the next iteration of strategic thinking and planning.

This year, one of the big issues is to review the AusIMM’s constitution, our Charter and By Laws. During these discussions, we will be considering the changes that are needed to improve, reform and modernise these foundations so that we ensure we can meet the Institute’s current and future needs.

Before I get on to the theme of this year’s Congress, I would like to touch on one of the issues that was discussed at Congress 2015 by providing a brief overview of the AusIMM’s governance model and how we all work together to achieve our goals for the Institute.

Members are the owners of the AusIMM, and are the equivalent of shareholders in a publicly listed company. Members elect the Board, granting it the authority and responsibility for setting the strategic direction of the Institute and monitoring its implementation. Ultimately, the Board’s role is to provide strategic leadership and governance oversight, and it is accountable to members for the future of the AusIMM and its operations.

The CEO leads all operational activities, business planning and financial management, and supervises delivery of programs and services by office bearers and AusIMM staff.

The theme of this year’s Congress is ‘Our AusIMM Beyond 2020’.

The AusIMM continues to prosper because of its solid foundations. We have a loyal, growing base of nearly 14 000 members, a strong member retention rate and an excellent reputation that has been built over our 123-year existence for providing leadership, opportunities and support to minerals professionals.

However, while the Institute’s current position remains strong, we are all aware that the environment in which we operate and the expectations of members continues to change, and that the pace of this change will rapidly increase as we move towards and beyond 2020.

It is important when considering the Institute’s future prospects and opportunities that we understand these forces of change.

One significant change is in the demographics of our members. Since 2010, the proportion of members aged under 40 has increased from 37 per cent to 43 per cent. In addition, more than half of our current membership base has been a member of the Institute for less than ten years.

As the demographics of our members change, so too will their expectations of how they interact with the Institute. We are already seeing that members are far more likely to interact with the Institute through online platforms and social media than through traditional channels. With an increasing proportion of our members preferring to engage with the Institute online, we must anticipate and prepare for their future needs and expectations.

The change in member demographics will also bring with it challenges associated with the level of members’ involvement with the Institute. Studies have shown that those from the generation that most of us in this room belong to are more likely than younger generations to volunteer their time to organisations such as the AusIMM. While this may change as members from these generations take a more prominent role in the Institute, we need to encourage younger members to become involved by highlighting the benefits that active participation in the Institute will have for their careers and professional development.

Working habits and career paths are also changing. The days of a minerals industry professional spending their entire career at one or two companies have ended, with workers now more likely to regularly move between jobs, work in different countries or face the possibility of their career being punctuated by periods of unemployment.

This makes personal professional development an increasingly important part of building a sustained career in the mining industry, with employers expecting prospective employees to already have well-rounded and cross-disciplinary skills when they start a job.

Gone are the days of ‘ticking off’ your professional development by attending a conference or two and reading a technical journal.

Today, professional development means different things to different people at different times in their careers. In this context, members and their employers expect and demand professional development opportunities that are:

  • highly relevant
  • easily accessible and convenient
  • ‘well rounded’ and deliver a broad range of skills across a number of disciplines
  • affordable
  • recognised as credible and high quality.

All of these factors mean that our members will have changing expectations of professional development. This includes how professional development is delivered, what topics it covers and how members build networks and interact with their fellow professionals and the Institute.

The AusIMM needs to continue delivering services that play to the Institute’s strengths, while forming partnerships and directing members to other services that may be outside of our core areas of expertise. By doing this, we will better serve our members by helping them to identify and achieve their next career goal.

In response to the changes that are currently taking place in the mining industry and the changing expectations of our members, the Institute has introduced a number of new initiatives in recent years:

  • The Graduates Engaged (GEN) program was introduced in mid-2015 to enable graduates who have been forced to return to study or take employment outside the industry to remain engaged with the Institute. It allows young professionals to renew their membership at the student rate and continue to receive most member benefits.
  • The Member Assistance Program (MAP) provides a reduced membership fee to members who are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the current downturn in the industry. MAP has encouraged more than 750 members to retain their membership while still enabling them to access professional development opportunities that will increase the prospects of employment. It is part of the Institute’s philosophy to support our members through the good times and the bad, and we continue to receive positive feedback about the beneficial impact that the MAP program has had on numerous members’ careers.
  • We have recently started a comprehensive overhaul of the Chartered Professional program, and a new AusIMM professional accreditation program will be built over the next 18 months. This is being done to ensure that we offer a robust, industry-leading professional accreditation program that is recognised and respected throughout the minerals industry both within Australia and internationally.
  • The Institute has increased its engagement with members through online platforms by offering a number of professional development services via webinar and live streaming. This delivery method has so far proved popular with members as it eliminates travel and accommodation costs, which may be difficult to justify to employers in the current environment. The Institute plans to expand these offerings in coming years and will continue to explore alternative forms of delivery according to member demand and technological advances.

Initiatives such as these will help the Institute remain relevant to our members as the industry and their professional development needs change and evolve. We need to pursue this nimble and proactive approach, now and beyond 2020, if the Institute is to maintain its position as a leading voice in the minerals industry.

The demographic, cultural and societal challenges that the Institute will face in the coming years are not unique to the AusIMM; many professional institutes and associations are facing the same challenges to their traditional operating models.

Rather than resisting these changes or attempting to maintain a ‘business as usual’ approach, we need to embrace these new ways of operating and evolve so that we can offer professional development services that are highly valued by our members and attractive to others within the minerals industry.

Regardless of the external changes that take place in the mining industry and society in general, the fundamental purpose of the AusIMM will not change significantly.

We will continue to help our members understand where they are at in their careers; support them in articulating the skills, knowledge and competencies they want to build; and provide them with the right opportunities, at the right time, in the right way, to fulfil those needs.

Whether we’re supporting a student undertaking a university degree, a young professional who has just started out in the industry, a mid-career manager who wants to take their career to the next level, the CEO of a major mining organisation, or a retired member wanting to give back to the sector – the AusIMM will continue to support every professional, at every stage of their career, and at every stage of the mining cycle.

If the AusIMM is to maintain its strong position as the leading body for the development of minerals industry professionals in Australia, we need to begin thinking now about our responses to the industry and community changes that we will increasingly face so that the Institute can prepare for and respond to those changes when they arise.

  • We must continue to understand and build on our strengths.
  • We must think carefully about the experience we want our members to have, and the relationship that we forge with them.
  • We must understand the opportunities and risks inherent in a changing world.
  • We must give members a choice as to how they interact with the Institute and provide a number of different points of entry to our services.
  • We must continue to invest in the development and delivery of professional development solutions to meet our members’ needs.
  • We must bring our constitution into the 21st century so that it supports us in our delivery.
  • And we must consider the strategic relationships that we already have and look at those that we want to have.

This year’s Congress theme – ‘Our AusIMM Beyond 2020’ – requires that we all examine the way that the Institute currently supports our members to identify what we do well, what can be improved and what will need to be done to support our members and future members beyond 2020.

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