Sustaining our professional resource base
Anybody reading the news will be aware that the COVID-19 disruption, geopolitical tensions and border closures internationally and locally have destroyed our university business models.
At the very best, universities have always put their money where demand existed and used fee-paying students to subsidise selected courses and research. Now they have the high cost of staff retrenchments (according to Melbourne University 5,100 – 6,100) as well as paying off billion-dollar deficits (around $6.4 – $7.6B) confronting them.
The turmoil within academia has dire consequences for mineral resource development, particularly because we have digital transformation upon us and a range of new technologies to embrace and be accredited.
As consultants, the professional skills we use developed through robust undergraduate education, work experience and mentorship extend through continuing education to keep us up to date. Our skills have hitherto been accredited primarily by academia and more recently by AusIMM. This underpins our reputation, allowing our clients to take our advice in confident expectation of quality work (backed up by PI insurance!)
Government has ongoing educational studies including the Shergold enquiry (secondary education and vocational pathways) and review of the ATAR university entry system. They also seek to implement course fee differentiation (Job-ready Graduate Package) to favour STEM courses over the humanities. These are just the start, but with the problems that academia has, no quick solutions can be expected.
The issues that stimulated AusIMM’s 2019 Resources Education Collaboration Summit in October 2019 remain. The industry needs replacement of professional resources, which were estimated by Kevin Tolhurst of the Minerals Council of Australia in 2015 to be 400 staff per annum, and this is much higher than the present graduation rate.
AusIMM addresses educational matters through the Chartered Professional Program Committee (CPPC), noting issues such as the requirements for engineers to be registered in Queensland and the roles of Engineers Australia (EA) and the Washington Accord remain pivotal. The Board has requested Gavin Yeates and John Dunlop to coordinate AusIMM action on education elements that confront our industry and all our contributing professionals. This is important work as it will directly affect all our futures so watch this space and be prepared to help if you can!