Unemployment among professional geoscientists is decreasing but there is a longer term problem for the industry.
Australia's geoscientists (geologists, geophysicists and allied Earth scientists) benefitted from a sharp increase in employment opportunities in the final quarter of 2020, according to the latest Australian Institute of Geoscientists employment survey.
It represents an improvement after employment prospects stalled throughout the previous three quarters of the year due to COVID.
AIG President Andrew Waltho said it was great to see job prospects for Australian geoscientists ending a bad year on such a positive note.
"In Queensland, the unemployment rate fell from 9.4 per cent to 5.3 per cent and mineral exploration delivered the bulk of new employment opportunities, with the proportion of geoscientists engaged in the field increasing from 61.5 per cent to 69.2 per cent during the quarter," Mr Waltho said.
"Strong metals prices appear to be driving renewed investment in resource discovery, especially in commodities like gold, copper, nickel and other battery materials, even lithium where 2020 was not a good year for producers and investors.
However, Mr Waltho said a major concern was Australia's aging geoscience community.
"Almost 40 per cent of geoscientists in Australia have been working for more than 30 years, placing them in their mid-50s, while early career geoscientists: those with less than 10 years experience comprise less than 10 per cent of the community," he said.
"We are again looking at a situation where there are too few, appropriately educated and skilled students coming through Australian universities to meet future demand, as experienced geoscientists retire."
IN OTHER NEWS:
Mr Waltho said this was a real concern with similar issues in many developed countries including Canada, USA and across Europe.
"This raises real concerns as to how demand for geoscientific skills in all sectors of industry will be addressed" he said.
"We only have five to 10 years to address this problem which is already front of mind for professional associations in Australia and overseas."