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AIG joins Australian Council of Professions

The AIG Board, at its October 2020 meeting approved a proposal to join the Australian Council of Professions (ACoP).

ACoP is a unifying alliance of Professional Associations that represents more than 800,000 Australian professionals including engineers, healthcare and computer professionals, veterinarians, accountants and now geoscientists throughout Australia. The council is acknowledged by the community, industry and government as the Thought Leaders advocating for the Professions, Professionals and Professionalism since 1971.

ACoP members are professional associations and supporting organisations who share a mission of advocating for community confidence in all professionals and their evidence-based advice in difficult times.

Key benefits of being a Member of the Australian Council of Professions include:

  • Participation in the national Alliance of Professional Associations
  • Early and easy access and input to government policy-making
  • Joint ‘profession-neutral’ representation of interests to governments
  • Joint promotion of the professions and professionalism to the community
  • Joint support of Australia’s economic, social and environmental well?being
  • Networking and sharing of information, knowledge and experience

A strength of ACoP is its ability to bring our member organisations together to exchange ideas, share experiences and work collaboratively to progress shared interests and objectives.

The Council’s work is currently focussed on the areas of

  • Education & Accreditation
  • Professionalism & Ethics and,
  • Diversity & Inclusion

These are areas in which there are perceived to be considerable benefits for members in AIG being able to share and learn from experiences and initiatives being pursued by other professions in these areas.

The education and accreditation initiative is looking closely at micro-credentials, employability and work-integrated learning (WIL), continuing professional development and education (CPD/CPE). This is of particular concern in Australian geoscience with a number of universities moving towards offerring generalised Earth science degrees as distinct from geology qualifications, creating an opportunity for micro-credentials to fill gaps in essential geoscientific knowledge required to secure employment in specific fields. AIG’s Education Committee is currently looking closely at core knowledge relevant to different fields of geoscientific practice.

Professionalism and ethics is looking closely at best practice in this essential field, central to public recognition and trust in professionals across all fields of practice.

ACoP’s diversity and inclusion policy focus is examining policies on broad-based diversity – extending beyond gender to include race and ethnicity, migration status, age and disability.

ACoP offers a free email newsletter covering the Council’s work. Interested members can sign up for the newsletter here. Developments and ACoP news will also be featured in AIG News.

AIG’s board is looking forward to a productive and mutually beneficial exchange of ideas and experience with other Australian professional associations.

The Australian Gender Equality Council (AGEC) have partnered with the University of Queensland and the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on men’s and women’s careers.

The purpose of this research project is to gain a clear understanding of the COVID-19 environment and its potential impact upon women’s ongoing career progression through a shift in the division of domestic labour as well as disparate effects upon women in different working environments.

If you would like to support this important project, we encourage you to participate in the research which involves a ten minute survey.

The survey results will:

  • inform a report outlining the impact of COVID-19 on the ongoing working lives of men and women
  • assist in providing recommendations to organisations and policy suggestions to state and federal government. 

As a member of AGEC, Women & Leadership Australia strongly supports this research and we hope you will take the time to participate.  The greater the number of people participating, the greater will be the impact of the findings, and the harder for the findings to be ignored.

Start Survey

A short overtime sprint won’t kill you but, as data from World War One shows, consistently putting in too many hours at work hurts employees and employers.

A recent BBC report described esearch on working hours that suggests overwork leads to being less productive, not more. It is also associated with increases in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other negative health effects, all of which can take a toll on work-related output.

In 1915, the British government established the Health of Munition Workers Committee (HMWC) to monitor working conditions and advise on matters such as working hours. The committee managed to collect a rich set of data that can tell us a lot about what happens when people work long hours.

The 2015 analysis of this data showed that as hours worked increased, output also increased, but only to a point. Output per hour peaked at about 40 hours of work per week and then fell, despite the extreme national importance of the work being performed.

One-hundred years on, the results of overwork don’t seem to be all that different for knowledge workers. Working too many hours backfires for both employers and employees, whether you measure by decreased outputs, lack of creativity, a drop in quality or poorer interpersonal skills.

More at the BBC Worklife website.

World War One munition factory making shells women weighing steel shells and testing their hardness April 1918 (BBC)

AIG’s Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey has been running for almost ten years, regularly collecting data on employment prospects for geoscientists, as well as demographic data that provide insight into how our profession is evolving.

Since the surveys commenced, unemployment amongst Australian geoscientists has been as low as 1.6% in September, 2011, and as high as 19.5% in March 2016. We’ve seen a small fall in the proportion of geoscientists in full-time employment, from 74% in June 2009 to 69% in the September 2018 survey. There has been a similar fall in part-time employment from 4.5% to 3.3% for the same period. Self-employment (geoscientists working as independent contractors and consultants) has risen from 21% in June 2009 to 28% in September 2018.

Where are we today?

In September 2019, 89% of survey respondents were working, or seeking work as a geoscientist in Australia. 7% of respondents were not seeking work, 2% were retired but staying in touch with their former profession, and the remainder of respondents were working or seeking work in fields other than geoscience.

Mineral exploration, metalliferous mining geology and energy resource exploration and production employ 85.4 % of survey respondents, only slightly less than the peak of 87.4 % observed in December 2014.

Geoscientist employment in mineral exploration, mining and energy production in Australia, Jun 2009 to September 2018.
Geoscientist employment in mineral exploration, mining and energy production in Australia, Jun 2009 to September 2018.

This is vastly different to the situation in Europe and the USA, where environmental services, government agencies and academia are the greatest sources of employment for geoscientists. Fields of employment including diamond exploration, engineering geology, industrial minerals production, groundwater resource management, environmental geoscience, government geoscience and other fields are relatively small contributors of employment opportunities.

Employment fields for geoscientists in Australia
Australian geoscientist fields of employment, Sep 2018

More than half of the geoscientists working in Australia are Western Australia based. More than ten percent of Australian-based or educated geoscientists work overseas.

Where Australia's geoscientists work.
Where Australia’s geoscientists work, Sep 2018.

Almost 75% of Australian geoscientists have a Bachelors Degree with Honours (requiring a minimum of four years full time study at most Australian universities). Almost 42% have a Masters degree or PhD. Almost 80% received their highest degree in Australia, while more than 90% earned their highest qualification in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada or the United States of America.

Geoscientist education in Australia
Australian geoscientist education, Sep 2018

Our profession appears to be ageing. Almost one third of Australia’s geoscientists have been involved in the profession for more than 30 years. Assuming a new graduate enters the workforce at 22-23 years of age, 30 years experience points to one third of Australia’s geoscientists being in their mid-fifties. The proportion of young geoscientists, with five or less years of experience stands out in these figures as being low, at less than 6%. This could be due to geoscience failing to attract students, or to early career geoscientists not seeing value in professional association membership. Geoscientists, for example, cannot act as Competent Persons in compliance with the JORC Code until they have at least five years relevant experience. Not being engaged with their peers through professional association membership could simply reduce awareness of surveys like the ones on which this article is based. Should the former proposition be true, however, our profession has a major problem that requires a concerted effort to attract more talented students to geoscience studies and careers.

Our ageing profession.
Our ageing profession.

Diversity was a hot topic in scientific circles throughout 2018. Overall, 85% of Australian geoscientists are men. The ratio of men to women geoscientists varies considerably, however, with years of experience. The greatest proportion of women in geoscience is amongst early career geoscientists, with less than five years experience, followed by mid-career geoscientists with 10 to 15 years experience. The proportion of women entering the profession of just under 30% demonstrates that more needs to be done to attract and retain women by Australian geoscience if greater gender balance is to be achieved. The goal of gender balance in the profession will only be achieved by a sustained effort over several decades.

The proportion of women with an honours degree or higher is 82%, greater than men with 74%.

Gender diversity by years of experience
Gender diversity by years of experience amongst Australian geoscientists (Sep 18)
Gender and education amongst Australian geoscientists, Sep 18.
Gender and education amongst Australian geoscientists, Sep 18.

Participation on different industry sectors varies considerably. Relatively few women work in mineral exploration, leading to greater participation in mining, energy resource exploration and production, government geoscience, engineering geology, industrial minerals and environmental geoscience.

Differences in employment fields between women and men in Australian geoscience

Differences in employment fields between women and men in Australian geoscience

In conclusion, this review of some of the survey results over time yielded a few surprises. Despite the highly cyclical nature of mineral exploration, it remains the dominant form of employment for geoscientists working in Australia. Fields where employment opportunities have grown considerably in the USA and Europe, including groundwater management and environmental geoscience, continue to be only a small part of Australia’s geoscience scene. This is surprising, given pressures on land for development in major cities where remediation of old industrial sites is a major source of land for urban development and the reliance of cities and towns on groundwater for an increasing proportion of their water needs has increased over the past ten years.

Does this raise questions regarding Australia’s focus on environmental stewardship more generally if we are not seeing an increased focus on these fields?

Similarly, engineering geology remains a relatively small sector of the geoscience profession, again against a backdrop of development of more difficult land for housing, industry and commercial uses in our major cities.

The figures can certainly be interpreted to demonstrate the importance of Australia’s resource industries to our economy, with the discovery of new mineral resources and stewardship of existing ones remaining the principal source of demand for geoscience capabilities.

Our profession is arguably making progress towards becoming a more diverse employer in Australia, but gender balance isn’t going to be achieved overnight. Achieving this will require sustained effort over decades, requiring commitment from all sectors of our profession. This occurs alongside an overarching need to ensure talented students are attracted to geoscience careers, which may well prove to be a significant contributor to geoscience in Australia in many ways.

Andrew Waltho