The University of New South Wales (UNSW) is providing $1.14 million in mining engineering scholarships next year to help meet the industry shortage.
UNSW will offer 25 scholarships; offering $48,000 over three to four years to students beginning either their first or second year studies in mining engineering.
Enrolments for mining engineering degrees are dropping – just as Australia’s mining sector sees a global rally in prices – and industry leaders fear it will create a shortage of graduates in coming years.
The scholarships aim to encourage students who may turn away from the degree due to the belief that they will not receive a job at the end of the mining boom. They may not realise the industry could pick up once they graduate.
“Mining is incredibly cyclical, and the peaks and troughs are dramatic,” Paul Hagan, head of UNSW’s School of Mining Engineering said.
“Downturns are fast, and usually last two or three years which means that there’s a peak in enrolments just as demand for jobs collapse.”
He added that student intake peaked in 2013, with enrolments falling ever since. Student intake at UNSW fell year on year by around 58 per cent – from a record 107 students in 2013 to six in 2016.
“But the mining industry is on the upswing again – which spells disaster in two or three years as the mining boom returns and there aren’t enough mining engineers entering the workforce,” Hagan added.
“This is the sixth mining cycle I’ve been through, so I know what happens next – demand for jobs will soar, but there won’t be enough trained engineers to hire.
“Anyone enrolling now will be in top demand in three years – but students don’t perceive it that way.”
Australia’s key commodity exports including iron ore and coal have been on huge rallies, with prices also receiving a surge.
Paul Flynn, Whitehaven Coal managing director said there are signs of a turnaround in mining activity and the rising prices are creating a flow of investment back into the resources industry.
“Based on past cycles, we’ll be short of skills within three years. That’s why we need to attract enrolments now, so we have enough engineers graduating when we really need them.”