An alarming drop in the number of students enrolling in mining engineering at some of Australia’s top universities should be a wake-up call for the nation’s mining industry, according to the head of Australia’s second biggest gold miner.

Evolution Mining Executive Chairman Jake Klein told his peers at the Energy Mines and Money conference suggesting that more needs to be done to attract new talent to the industry.
“We desperately need to make mining an attractive career option for young people again,” Mr Klein said.

“We are competing with Facebook and Google to attract and retain the best and brightest talent.”.

Mr Klein said that at the top four Australian mining schools, the number of students doing fourth year mining engineering is around 230. This drops to 130 in third year, and 60 in second year.

“It should be of great concern that the University of Western Australia is forecasting only eight students will graduate as mining engineers in 2018, and enrolment in mining engineering at the University of NSW in 2017 was also just eight – the lowest level in 40 years.”

These sentiments echo those of Greg Evans, Executive Director Coal, Minerals Council of Australia.

“The coal industry is part of a broader Australian mining industry push to raise awareness of the mining industries and opportunities amongst young Australians and build the workforce of the future,” Mr Evans said .

Data collected from 1,061 senior high school students and first-year university students aged between 15 and 20 by youth research agency YouthInsight found that knowledge of mining careers was extremely low, with 59 per cent of young people knowing nothing at all about working in the mining sector.

Mr Evans said that despite mining and the mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector providing jobs for 1.1 million Australians – or one in every ten jobs – and excellent prospects for the industry, it’s clear that more could be done to make young people aware about the opportunities and rewards in mining and METS.

“Our industry has a great story to tell – our high-skill, high-wage workforce is younger, better-paid, better trained and has a much higher share of apprentices than other sectors, with average full-time weekly pay of $2,610, which is 67 per cent higher than the all-industries average,” Mr Evans said.

The MCA convened a recent Minerals Education Summit in Melbourne to bring together leaders from industry, academia and government – as well as students and graduates- to consider the future minerals workforce, and develop strategies to deliver the skilled workforce needed to keep the talent pipeline flowing.

“We need to make young people and their parents aware of the tremendous opportunities on offer, including world-leading innovation.”

And according to Klein, the industry’s image problem is not restricted to attracting talent either.

“Few people would recognise that a job in mining is safer than one in agriculture, forestry, construction, fishing, transport or manufacturing,” continued Klein.

Evans agrees that jobME security for the 46,000 workers directly employed in the Australian coal industry in 2017 has never been better.

“Coal mining in Australia is a sophisticated and hi-tech activity. Continuous improvements in mining technology, occupational health and safety and environmental performance have ensured that Australia is an efficient and reliable producer of high-quality thermal and metallurgical coals for the international market,” Evans said.

Energy, Mines and Money Australia will attract over 500 attendees, showcasing over 40 strategic mineral, coal, oil and gas opportunities, matching projects with global investment throughout a two-day conference and exhibition at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre from 20-21 June 2018. Supported by the Queensland Government, the programme will examine the trends and forecasts that will shape investment and development for the mining, oil and gas industries moving forward.

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