Once again our university mining schools are facing dire futures throughout Australia due to low enrolments and reduced resources, but of all the states and territories the situation is even more serious here in Western Australia. This is occurring despite the fact that the local industry's portfolio of mineral and oil and gas products are more varied, valuable and prospective than anywhere else in the nation.
The challenge to educators has always been the lag between the boom and bust cyclic nature of the industry's fortunes and recruitment of students, and especially so during periods of severe downturn. Unfortunately, Western Australia is also losing ground in its power to attract overseas students, whose fees make a huge difference to the financial wellbeing of universities.
These challenges can only be overcome by a healthy, long-lasting and sustainable partnership between university mining schools and industry employers. Marketing the unique opportunities that mining-related careers can bring to young men and women is essential at all times, and even more so during periods of negative growth. The industry offers students a global marketplace within which to operate and advertise their skills. It also integrates within its daily and developing activities the science and art of achieving success; people management and cooperation being equally important to the scientific, technological and financial knowledge and skills required to operate effectively in today's global marketplace with its increasingly digital mines.
Western Australia also has the great fortune of having its own Western Australian School of Mines at the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder; the centre of one of the world's most prospective and productive mineral provinces. After all, very few mining operations are located near populated cities with many, if not most, operating in the remotest parts of the nation. This places Curtin University in a very privileged situation with its multi-campus operation linking its impressive main campus in Perth with its own WA School of Mines based at the centre of the Eastern Goldfields where exploration for new orebodies continues within a very active mining industry producing a variety of metallic mineral products.
That having been said, how can the current depressing situation be reversed?
Well, only through a determined effort by the university and mining companies to organise a strong marketing campaign advertising the unique advantages and attractiveness of careers in the mining sector. This should be done in conjunction with financial and in-kind assistance from industry to source and organise the recruitment of academic staff capable of bringing current industry challenges to the lecture theatre. Such campaigns should include mining company internships and/or cadetships to ensure the minimum of financial imposition on high quality students and provide work-related educational experience that's so important to mining-related undergraduates and postgraduates.
It is only through such cooperative partnerships that we can ensure the sustainability of world-class mining-related education for university students in Western Australia, home to the WA School of Mines, world-renowned for the quality of its graduate geologists, mining engineers, mine surveyors and metallurgists since the early years of the twentieth century.
Emeritus Professor Odwyn Jones AO
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