An innovative program from the state government could lead to a jobs boom in regional Victoria.
Given the renewed interest in the goldfields around Ballarat from international mining investors, support for the region's burgeoning mining equipment, technology and services (METS) industry is welcomed as business prepare to enter the recovery phase of the coronavirus pandemic.
The state government announced a METS Regional Innovation Accelerator project, held online, would help smaller companies get ahead of the curve, through networking and business development programs.
In Ballarat, Gekko Systems is a METS company which has sold equipment across the world.
READ MORE: Ballarat's Gekko Systems wins IOM3 award
It has recently diversified into bioenergy production and medical technology - its prototype ventilator will soon begin Therapeutic Goods Administration trials, and could potentially save lives in hospitals in the near future.
Managing director Elizabeth Lewis-Gray said the accelerator project was an opportunity for other regional businesses.
"The fantastic thing is you'll get to network with regional mining companies and METS companies - you never know what comes out of spending time with people and finding opportunities to collaborate," she said.
"The concept of it is really to run people, in an accelerated fashion, through business plan development and opportunity development, and it gives people in the regions who perhaps haven't had much exposure to that process a bit of structure."
AustMine is the industry body for METS companies - chief executive Christine Gibbs Stewart said it was about time the regions were focused on.
"One of the things about METS in regional areas, they have excellence in manufacturing and international reputation - Gekko's based in Ballarat but selling more to the world," she said.
"Many other companies can take that path - this accelerator will help them do that.
"Mining remains strong, the supply sector remains strong, but something like this will give companies additional skills, particularly when you're an small to medium enterprise ...so when those mines in Victoria expand, it means they can get in there getting those business opportunities."
The Minerals Council of Australia's Victorian executive director James Sorahan said in a statement METS would play a part in Victoria's future success.
"New ideas are often developed by Victorian METS companies for Victorian mines and those innovations from safety to special processing equipment is then exported around the world," he said.
"Victoria's potential for further development as a hub for METS provides opportunities across the state in a range of occupations. Young Victorians pursuing science, maths and engineering qualifications have a future in the regions as mining continues to adopt new technologies in the pursuit of more productive, safe and environmentally sustainable mining operations.
"The sector provides highly skilled job opportunities for Victorians in manufacturing, 3D printing, engineering and safety innovation, a good number of these jobs are found in Ballarat and other regional cities."
State Minister for Resources Jaclyn Symes said in a statement Gekko's success showed what can be achieved when government backed the METS sector.
"Our accelerator program will help METS businesses benefit from Victoria's mining boom, regardless of where they're located in Victoria," she said.
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