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Geoscientist employment opportunities continue improvement despite June quarter slowdown

Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey June 2019

Employment opportunities for Australia’s geoscientists continued to show a very slowl-improving trend, despite disappoini.ng results for the second quarter (April to June). 

The second quarter setback saw unemployment rise from 7.5% at the end of March, to 9.3% at the end of June.On the other hand, underemployment amongst self-employed geoscientists fell from 20.5% to 14.9% for the same period.  The underemployment figure represents the proportion of self-employed geoscientists unable to secure more than one quarter of their desired workload.

The survey was completed by 734 respondents nationally.  Some 66% of respondents worked or sought work in mineral exploration.  A further 18% worked in metalliferous mining, while 5% of respondents worked or sought work in energy resource exploration and production.

Half of Australia’s geoscientists who are currently unemployed have been without work for more than 12 months.  A similar proportion sees little prospect of regaining employment in their field in the year ahead.  Almost one in ten unemployed geoscientists are looking to leave the profession, seeking more stable employment.

“The depressed employment prospects for geoscientists are a surprise given mineral exploration expenditure rose during the June quarter according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released last week although mineral exploration drilling declined,” AIG President, Andrew Waltho said. 

“There is little doubt that junior exploration and mining companies especially are experiencing difficulty raising capital to fund new exploration and producers are having to deal with considerable uncertainty and price volatility, at least partly due to trade tensions between the USA and China” Mr Waltho said.

“The increase in work secured by self-employed geoscientists is most welcome, especially in light of the sharp increase in under-employment observed in the previous survey,” Mr Waltho said.

“Long term unemployment is the big issue in these figures.  Half of Australia’s unemployed geoscientists have been without work for 12 months or more, and a similar number see no new opportunities on the horizon,” he said.

“Professional institutes, including AIG, are doing whatever we can to help members remain in touch with their colleagues and peers and maintain their skills, but it’s pretty hard to remain motivated when industry conditions appear to be stagnant,” Mr Waltho said.

The employment situation varied significantly between states in the latest survey results.

The lowest levels of both unemployment and under-employment were recorded in Western Australia.  Unemployment amongst professional geoscientists fell from 8.5% at the end of March to 7.8% at the end of June, while under-employment fell from 17.6% to 11.0% for the same period.

Victoria recorded the largest fall in the unemployment rate, from 11.8% at the end of March to 5.9% in June.  Under-employment in Victoria also fell from 17.6% at the end of March to 14.7% at the end of June.

Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia all recorded increases in both unemployment and under-employment.  Only a small number of responses were received from geoscientists working in the Northern Territory and Tasmania, which indicated near-full employment of small pools of local geoscientists.

Exploring a career in the minerals industry

The Geological Society of America (GSA), the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), the American Geophysical Union (AGU), and the Society of Economic Geology will be hosting a webinar entitled Exploring a Career in the Minerals Industry. The webinar will be on Wednesday, 21 August 2019, at 11:00 a.m. MDT. This webinar will feature two presenters from Newmont Goldcorp who will provide perspectives of a senior project manager and a student near graduation on what a geologist does in this important sector and what it takes to work within this industry.

AIG members have been invited to participate in the webinar, one of a series covering different aspects of geoscientific employment.

Date and Time: 21 August 2019 at 11:00 a.m. MDT
22 August 2019 at 3:00 am Brisbane, 1:00 am Perth
Cost: FREE
Duration: 1 hour
Click here to Register  

The webinar will be recorded and made available to registrants.

About the Webinar
Mineral resources are essential for the world, from precious metals such as gold and their relationship to the global economy, base metals & rare earth minerals and their use in electronics through to industrial minerals used in creation of steel and other construction materials used in our everyday lives. In the past century these non-renewable resources have become both more readily mined and technically challenging to reach. This webinar will feature the perspectives of a senior project manager and a student near graduation on what a geologist does in this important sector and what it takes to work within this industry.

Geologists in the hard-rock sector are engaged in the discovery of metals & minerals as well as their interpretation and potential extraction. The mine development cycle creates opportunities for geoscientists in exploration, modelling, environmental, geotechnical, and production teams. Geoscientists in this field can work either for contracting and consulting firms or directly for corporations ranging in size from junior explorers to multi-national mining firms. Opportunities can include working in remote locations in the field and/or undertaking interpretation from regional centers. This often involves being part of a cross-functional team. As with any industry, demand fluctuates with the market, but skilled workers are always needed, and a good mining company invests in developing safe, long-term projects. Exploration and mining geologists work to fulfill the world’s mineral needs with integrity, expertise, and safety while facilitating community involvement, job creation, and transparency.

About the Presenters
Terry Briggs is part of a Regional Leadership Team currently supporting the South America region of Newmont Goldcorp with operations in Peru, Argentina, and Suriname as well as projects and joint ventures across the region. Previous roles at corporate in Newmont Goldcorp included leading the Geology Function within the Global Technical Services Group as well as running due diligence activities of assets for potential M&A within Corporate Development. Prior to joining Newmont, he worked at a variety of base and precious metal, open pit and underground operations in Australia, Eastern Europe, and South East Asia in both geological and operations management roles. He holds a master’s in Engineering (management) from the University of Colorado and a bachelor of science (specializing in economic geology) from Monash University.

About the Presenters
Terry Briggs is part of a Regional Leadership Team currently supporting the South America region of Newmont Goldcorp with operations in Peru, Argentina, and Suriname as well as projects and joint ventures across the region. Previous roles at corporate in Newmont Goldcorp included leading the Geology Function within the Global Technical Services Group as well as running due diligence activities of assets for potential M&A within Corporate Development. Prior to joining Newmont, he worked at a variety of base and precious metal, open pit and underground operations in Australia, Eastern Europe, and South East Asia in both geological and operations management roles. He holds a master’s in Engineering (management) from the University of Colorado and a bachelor of science (specializing in economic geology) from Monash University.

Elaine Lord holds a bachelor’s of science (hard rock emphasis) from Northern Illinois University, is pursuing a MSc. degree at the University of Alberta, and is currently interning at Newmont Goldcorp as a resource modeler. She has been part of the geological community since her childhood and has studied fossils, paleo-ecology, and resource modeling. Elaine has held positions ranging from GeoCorps park geologist intern to fossil preparator intern at the Field Museum, but has settled into mineral production geosciences as a career choice.

Latest Australian geoscientist employment survey open

The latest instalment in AIG’s Australian geoscientist employment survey series is open for contributions. Click here to complete the survey.

This survey will provide data on trends in geoscientist employment in Australia during the first quarter (January, February, March) of 2019.  In the final quarter of 2018 quarter, the Australian geoscientists unemployment rate continued a gradual, downward trend, but increased from 8.3% at the end of September, to 9.1% at the end of December.  Underemployment amongst self-employed geoscientists increased markedly. There is still a general perception that exploration and mining investment is strengthening in Australia, but this may not be flowing through to strongly improved employment prospects for geoscientists.

The survey takes only two or three minutes to complete.  You do not need to be an AIG member to contribute.  No data that could personally identify respondents is collected.  Contributions to the survey are required from both employed and unemployed geoscientists to ensure the relevance of results.  Your completing the survey really helps to make a difference to the standing and knowledge of our profession.

The survey will be open for contributions until 28th April 2019.  Every contribution adds to the reliability of the survey results.  

Sincere thanks in advance for your continued support.

Overall improvement trend in geoscientist unemployment continues, but self-employed geoscientists still doing it tough

Australian Geoscientist employment survey results for Q4 2018 released.

  • Call also made for greater political action to ensure more equitable and timely access to land for exploration
  • More women also forging geoscience careers

The latest quarterly Australian geoscientist unemployment survey for the final quarter of 2018, conducted during January 2019, revealed a slight increasein geoscientist unemployment, from 8.3% at the end of September, to 9.1% at the end of December 2018. Underemployment amongst self-employed geoscientists, however, rose significantly from 12.9% to 18.5% for the same period.

However, despite the dip for the past quarter, the new results pointed to evidence of an overall improving job trend since June 2016.

“This latest quarterly result is disappointing”, Australian Institute of Geoscientists spokesperson, Mr Andrew Waltho said today, “coming at a time when there was genuine optimism regarding an improvement in exploration activity, several, significant new mineral discoveries, and speculation regarding potential skills shortages facing the exploration and mining sectors”.  

Geoscientist employment in Australia June 2009 – December 2018

“Both the Federal Government and Opposition have announced initiatives to support mineral exploration research if elected in the May Federal election, but no-one is talking about improving processes facilitating equitable and timely access to land for exploration,” Mr Waltho said. 

“In fairness, this is a state issue, but we are still seeing bureaucratic and lengthy processes in operation that disadvantage the junior exploration sector in particular, with little sign of change,” Mr Waltho said.

The unemployment and underemployment situation varied widely between states.  Unemployment was lowest in South Australia (5.3%), NSW and ACT (5.6%) and Victoria (5.9%), followed by Western Australia (8.3%).  The results for Victoria and South Australia represent marked improvements on the previous, September quarter survey.  Unemployment in Western Australia was 8.3%, up from 6.5%. Unemployment in Queensland jumped from 11.5% in the September quarter to 15.1% in this survey.

Employment state by state. Too few survey responses were received from South Australia and the Northern Territory for inclusion.

All states except South Australia saw little change or an increase in unemployment in the 12 months between December 2017 and December 2018, but an overall improving trend since June 2016 remains evident.

The underemployment rate in South Australia took some gloss off the positive unemployment figure, coming in at 36.8% for the quarter, followed by Queensland (24.2%), NSW/ACT (16.9%), Western Australia (14.9%) and Victoria (11.8%).  

The survey attracted 391 individual responses.  Too few responses were received from Tasmania and the Northern Territory for the reporting of state results.

Junior exploration and mining companies employ 29% of Australia’s geoscientists according to this survey, almost as many as major and mid-tier companies combined.  

Cultural shift needed

“This amply demonstrates the importance of measures to help small employers avoid burning precious capital waiting for approvals before conducting productive exploration activities” Mr Waltho said.  

“Small companies have a limited capital base on which is difficult to raise further funds and must be used productively if they are to survive,” Mr Waltho said.

“Early career geoscientists tend to be employed in greater numbers by major mining and exploration companies but this soon changes as geoscientists gain professional experience, suggesting that major companies need to look more closely at retaining talent by providing a more dynamic and professionally rewarding professional environment for their staff,” Mr Waltho said.

Sources of employment for Australian geoscientists
Geoscientist employment in mineral exploration, by company tier

Women are represented almost equally in the geoscience staff of major, mid-tier and junior exploration companies.  The overall proportion of women in the workforce remains low, but large, mid-sized and junior companies don’t appear to either discriminate or be preferred sources of employment.

“Gender diversity in exploration and mining, long-considered to be a male dominated profession in Australia is changing rapidly” Mr Waltho said. “Almost half of the early career geoscientists (0-5 years’ experience) who responded to this latest survey were women,” Mr Waltho said.  “The sector is clearly creating career opportunities for women that are being taken up and we need to ensure that this trend continues through measures to promote and preserve gender diversity,” he said.

 “A drop in the proportion of women in the 5 – 10 year experience range is evident, but the proportion of women in the profession increases again in the 10 – 15 year range, suggesting, perhaps, that we are seeing the benefit of measures such as flexible employment and favourable parental leave provisions that enable geoscientists to mix raising a family with pursuit of a career. “This again, is something we need to build,” Mr Waltho said.  

Gender diversity amongst survey respondents. Women comprised 45% of early career geoscientists responding to the survey – signs of a very welcome trend towards more women taking up geoscience as their career

“The fact that we are seeing evidence pointing to this is a real positive for both the exploration and mining industry and our profession,” Mr Waltho said.

Employment survey snapshot

The latest AIG Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey for the final quarter of 2018, conducted during January 2019, revealed a slight increase in overall unemployment amongst Australian geoscientists and a spike in underemployment amongst self-employed geoscience professionals.

Geoscientist unemployment and underemployment in Australia June 2009 to December 2018

The unemployment rate rose slightly from 8.3% at the end of September to 9.1% at the end of December 2018, while underemployment for the same period increased significantly from 12.9% to 18.5%.

The unemployment rate was the lowest recorded since March 2013 but points to the geoscientist employment situation in Australia remaining somewhat fragile.

Analysis of the survey data is continuing – watch the AIG web site for a complete analysis of the survey results.

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