Gree­nies turn off min­ing’s Gen Next

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - SID MA­HER NSW EDITOR

At­tacks by green ac­tivists on the re­sources in­dus­try are turn­ing mil­len­ni­als off min­ing jobs, spark­ing warn­ings the in­dus­try will face some of the tough­est re­cruit­ment con­di­tions in 20 years un­less it con­fronts the prob­lem.

The Min­er­als Coun­cil of Aus­tralia has called an ed­u­ca­tion sum­mit for later this year which will bring to­gether in­dus­try, uni­ver­si­ties and the gov­ern­ment to grap­ple with the is­sue.

MCA in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive David By­ers said: “It’s un­for­tu­nate that sus­tained at­tacks from mis­in­formed ac­tivists have dis­suaded some young peo­ple from look­ing at a ca­reer in min­ing.”

Ex­pected en­rol­ments in min­ing en­gi­neer­ing have al­most halved in the past 12 months and are pro­jected to halve again by the end of the decade. MCA fig­ures sug­gest min­ing en­gi­neer­ing en­rol­ments have dropped from 171 last year to 98 this year and are on track to fall to 69 next year and 47 in 2020.

It comes as an anti-coal char­ity is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated af­ter its chief ex­ec­u­tive was videoed urg­ing pro­test­ers to “get ar­rested”.

The ed­u­ca­tion sum­mit, sched­uled for May in Mel­bourne, comes as a re­view of the in­dus­try’s ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions warns it faces “sim­i­lar chal­lenges in se­cur­ing do­mes­tic pro­fes­sion­als” as in the 1998 skills short­age. “Aside from the eco­nomic driver of com­mod­ity prices on en­rol­ments, there are new chal­lenges,’’ the re­view of Min­ing Ed­u­ca­tion Aus­tralia and the Min­er­als Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Coun­cil found. These in­cluded “a grow­ing an­ti­min­ing per­cep­tion among mil­len­ni­als cou­pled with their val­ues-based de­ci­sion mak­ing’’.

Je­lena Ceranic, how­ever, has no such mis­giv­ings. A paid en­gi­neer­ing in­tern­ship rep­re­sents the ful­fil­ment of a longheld dream for the 20-year-old, who was awarded the 2017 MCA, BHP women in en­gi­neer­ing schol­ar­ship. She has been work­ing as a fly-in-fly-out trainee at

BHP’s East­ern Ridge iron ore mine at New­man in Western Aus­tralia’s Pil­bara, mak­ing it back to Perth for week­ends.

Je­lena, a fourth-year civil en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent at Curtin Uni­ver­sity, said: “You can make a big change in the world with en­gi­neer­ing.’’

She said she was not af­fected by at­tacks on the min­ing in­dus­try at all be­cause it was a “pos­i­tive key driver of Aus­tralia’s econ­omy and this will con­tinue’’. En­rol­ments might have dropped off, Je­lena sug­gested, be­cause of the end of the min­ing boom. “Peo­ple are just fol­low­ing the crowd, but I don’t feel like min­ing is drop­ping off here.’’

And she is right. De­spite the dra­matic fall in in­ter­est from stu­dents, fig­ures pub­lished by the re­cruiter SEEK show job ad­ver­tise­ments in min­ing, re­sources and en­ergy grew 54 per cent in the past 12 months. And job ads in the min­ing en­gi­neer­ing and main­te­nance cat­e­gories rose 84.3 per cent be­tween Jan­uary and Novem­ber.

SEEK chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer Ken­dra Banks said that min­ing, en­ergy and re­sources job ads were grow­ing faster than in any other sec­tor. All states and ter­ri­to­ries had ex­pe­ri­enced the growth. The most op­por­tu­ni­ties were in Western Aus­tralia, which cur­rently has more than 1500 roles ad­ver­tised — an­nual growth of 32 per cent.

“Queens­land of­fers the sec­ond great­est num­ber of job op­por­tu­ni­ties across min­ing, en­ergy and re­sources on SEEK, with op­por­tu­ni­ties grow­ing by 73 per cent over the past 12 months to De­cem­ber 2017,” Ms Banks said.

SEEK’s re­search in­di­cates that job se­cu­rity in min­ing has in­creased to the sec­ond most im­por­tant spot in terms of what at­tracts can­di­dates to a role or com­pany in the in­dus­try. Jobs with the strong­est growth in­cluded drilling and blast­ing.

In­dus­try re­search shows that first-year en­rol­ments at uni­ver­sity in min­ing-re­lated dis­ci­plines tend to track com­mod­ity prices. They peaked for min­ing en­gi­neer­ing in 2012 and 2013, about a year af­ter the iron ore price peaked.

Je­lena is out­num­bered about nine-to-one by males in the ranks of en­gi­neer­ing stu­dents, but she says: “I hon­estly for­get that I’m fe­male up there. If you do a job, at the end of the day you’re go­ing to be re­spected by ev­ery­one and you are not go­ing to get put in a box by your gen­der.’’

The MCA’s David By­ers said: “The in­dus­try is work­ing hard with oth­ers to en­cour­age more young peo­ple to take up en­gi­neer­ing and other min­ing cour­ses to meet the needs of the work­force of to­mor­row.’’

Je­lena Ceranic

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