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Jobless numbers climb in 1Q for Australia’s geoscientists but sector so far sidesteps more serious COVID-led impacts

Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey results: April 2020

Australian geoscientists reported a deterioration in employment in the first three months of 2020.  Fears, however, that the coronavirus pandemic would have a deep and dramatic impact on employment, have not as yet materialised. 

Unemployment amongst Australia’s geoscientists increased to 10.0% at the end of the March 2020 quarter compared to 7.3% at the end of the 2019 December quarter. Under-employment amongst self-employed geoscientists increased from 13.1% to 18.1% for the same period.

Geoscientist unemployment and under-employment in Australia June 2009-March 2020

“Widespread speculation that the coronavirus pandemic would have a rapid and dramatic impact on geoscientist employment across Australia, where more than 70% of geoscientists work in mineral and energy resource exploration, mining and production, isn’t borne out by the latest survey results,” Australian Institute of Geoscientists’ President, Mr Andrew Waltho, said today.  

“The first quarter of each year is frequently marked by an upturn in unemployment, with exploration fieldwork in particular reduced following the summer holidays and northern Australian wet season,” Mr Waltho said. “We have not to date seen anything like the dramatic downturn in employment associated with the global financial crisis in 2009,” he said.  

“It is a welcoming sign to see that many employers, so far, have been able to retain geoscientist staff, demonstrating a commitment to both their people and business resilience, especially when the proportion of geoscientists employed by small to medium sized companies is considered.

“Geoscientists, however, haven’t escaped entirely unscathed. Self-employed geoscientists working as consultants and contractors are experiencing a downturn in their ability to secure work greater than is normally evident at this time of year, which we should expect to be reflected in exploration and mineral resource production,” Mr Waltho said.  

The decline in employment nationally was not even.

Unemployment amongst geoscientists increased in every state except Queensland where unemployment was little changed between December 2019 and March 2020.  Unemployment in Western Australia increased by 1.6%.  The greatest increases  were recorded in Victoria (11.1%) and South Australia (13.8%).  

State. by state unemployment and under-employment rates Q1 2020

Under-employment amongst self-employed geoscientists increased significantly in all states except Queensland, where again, little change was observed in the quarter. 

The contributions of mineral resource exploration, mining and energy resource exploration and production vary markedly between states.

Long-term unemployment remains the darkest aspect of the survey results with almost 29% of survey respondents reporting that they have been out of work for more than 12 months.  Six percent of respondents were looking to pursue careers beyond geosciences on a long-term basis. A further 12% were seeking work to help them deal with current employment conditions affecting geosciences in Australia.  

Continued professional development by geoscientists is strongly encouraged, with provision of accessible professional development resources a major focus of professional institutes, including AIG. More than one quarter of unemployed geoscientists reported that they were working to improve their qualifications and skills through formal study while unable to secure work.

Sources of employment for geoscientists by state

“In one sense, the survey results are re-assuring in the initial impact on employment of the coronavirus being more muted than many geoscience professionals feared,” Mr Waltho said.

“The potential for more severe impacts on employment remain.

“The situation, however, has some way to run and AIG will now be looking to the June survey to demonstrate how Australia’s minerals and energy exploration and mining industry is coping with the impacts of the pandemic.  

“The need to move to a new way of working is affecting everyone in Australia to some extent.

“The AIG’s priority is to continue to deliver professional development and networking opportunities to members using on-line delivery of seminars, and short courses allowing exchange of information between members,” Mr Waltho said.  

“Some of these new ways of working may well outlive the impacts of the pandemic, but ultimately geoscientists, particularly those working in exploration, need safe and effective access to land to deliver results. Returning to a safe and effective means of accessing land will be essential going forward,” he said.

The next survey will open for contributions at the end of June 2020.

 The Australian Geoscience Council (AGC) is pursuing a Vision to raise the profile of Geoscience to be pre-eminent in Australia and to be recognised as one of the great fields of general science with Physics, Chemistry and Biology. In doing this the AGC is calling for nominations for the next National Geoscience Champion. This honour will be awarded to very few geoscientists. It will recognise major contributions to our science, craft and art, evidenced by technical, leadership, mentoring and collegial endeavours. 

Nominations for National Geoscience Champions should include: 

  • Name and contact details of Nominators 
  • An outline of the nominees geoscientific career 
  • Details of their significant contributions to geoscience in Australia 
  • Details of the impact of their work in geoscience internationally 

Nominations should be concise and not exceed more than 500 words or an A4 page.

Assessment Guidelines 

A panel of at least three AGC members will be involved in the assessment of National Geoscience Champion awards as required. The Panel shall be include the President of the AGC with the Opportunity to co-opt specific panel members to assist and advise as required. 

An award of National Geoscience Champion is not made as an annual event rather there will be up to a maximum of EIGHT National Geoscience Champions at any given time – reflecting the number of membership organisations involved in the AGC. 

Awardees of the National Geoscience Champions do not have to be current members of any of the AGC Member Organisations. The award will be given on merit and not on membership. 

National Geoscience Champions will be asked to participate in events during the years following the award to engage and enthuse geoscientists and to promote geoscience nationally. Where necessary the AGC will provide financial assistance to the National Geoscience Champion to attend these events. 

Nominations should be submitted by email to admin@agc.org.au. Further details the nomination process are available from the AGC website.

Abstract submissions are welcome for consideration for the AEGC 2019 Conference, to be held on 2-5 September 2019 at Crown Perth. The theme for the 2019 conference is “Data to Discovery”. The AEGC technical program committee has a focus on Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry and how these are applied in exploration for both Petroleum and Mineral systems in Australasia and the wider Asia-Pacific region. We invite you to submit your abstract before the closing deadline at 5pm on Friday 22 March (AWST).  

Early Bird Registration will be opening next month, be sure to secure your spot at the early bird rate!

Further information regarding the conference can be found on the AEGC 2019 website.

Perth will host the 2nd Australasian Exploration Geoscience Conference (AEGC) from Monday 2 to Thursday 5 September 2019 at Crown Perth.

The AEGC is the largest petroleum and mineral geoscience conference in Australasia, and incorporates the West Australian Basin Symposium (WABS) and the ASEG-PESA International Geophysical Conference and Exhibition.

The event will be jointly hosted by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG)Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (ASEG), and Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia (PESA).

The theme for the 2019 conference is “Data to Discovery”. The AEGC technical program committee has a focus on Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry and how these are applied in exploration for both Petroleum and Mineral systems in Australasia and the wider Asia-Pacific region. The conference has major sub-themes encompassing but not limited to:

  • New technologies
  • New information from old data
  • Local understanding from regional context
  • Workflows and methods that reduce cost/turnaround on projects
  • Cross disciplinary co-ordination
  • Case studies
  • Interacting and communicating science to the wider community.

A vital component of the 2019 conference will be the inclusion of dedicated streams for Australian basins, discovery techniques, mineral mapping, and remote sensing applications.

On behalf of the AEGC 2019 Organising Committee, we look forward to welcoming you to Perth.  Visit the conference web site for the latest information regarding the conference, accommodation, sponsorship and exhibition opportunities.

John Gorter and Tim Dean
Co-Chairs

Key Dates:

Call for Abstracts Expression of Interest Closes: 31 January 2019 – submit your expression of interest now via the AEGC2019 website.
Early Bird Registration Opens: 1 March 2019
Call for Extended Abstracts Closes: 22 March 2019 
Author Notification: 3 May 2019 or before
Registration Deadline: 31 May 2019

Graduation from university with an Earth science degree represented a major learning milestone that enabled you to begin your geoscience career.  It also represented the start of the next phase in your professional, technical and personal development through continuing development as a professional.

Continuing professional development, or CPD, is work-related learning that should continue throughout your career.  The year in which new professionals enter the workforce is usually a period of intense, on the job learning in a diverse range of areas such as field and mapping skills, sampling, core logging, managing contractors, landowner liaison and mining title management, to name but a few.  University studies provide an essential and solid grounding in geological principles, Earth systems, scientific method and research skills, which must be supplemented by a broad spectrum of new skills that are based on elements of these fields and represent workplace essentials.

In many professions, CPD forms an integral part of a licence to practice.  More professions require a managed and verifiable commitment to CPD than not.  The dominant reason for this this is the perception of public risk associated with practice of the profession in question.  Medical professionals, for example, may be called on to make decisions that could affect someone’s life.  Engineers design and build structures and machines that could create public safety risks or have profound economic consequence if they fail.  Teachers shape the character and skills of young people who will be the backbone of our society in future years.

Geoscientists have the privilege of being self-regulating.  There is no universal requirement for professional registration and licencing of geoscientists in Australia.  This does not, however, diminish the need for, and value of CPD.  It remains one of the key mechanisms by which high standards of professional practice and the relevance and currency of qualifications and experience are maintained.

CPD is frequently described as an investment for both individuals and employers as it involves maintaining enhancing and extending your knowledge expertise and competence.  It is central to the definition of professionalism recognised by the general public, where professionals strive to become leaders, knowledgeable, sources of advice and able to reliably solve problems in their chosen fields, which sets them apart from the rest of the pack.

Formal CPD falls into three broad categories:

  1. formal CPD;
  2. informal work-related CPD; and
  3. activities external to your work that contribute to your CPD.

CPD requires an investment of time, but the cost of CPD does not need to be onerous due to the range of activities that fall into the three categories above.

Join a discussion of CPD and professionalism on the AIG Linkedin Group.