Why science and maths are important for a mining career


STEM subjects have been getting a lot of political attention lately. Here's why they're vital for a mining career.

Before the July Federal Election, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced plans to make science and maths compulsory for every student completing high school.

At the moment both subjects are compulsory to Year 10, but not for year 11 and 12, so this is a big and important change. While I admit many of the things I learnt in high school biology have not proven to be useful in my adult life (nor have some of the maths), maths and science are still very important subjects. That’s especially the case if you want a career in mining.

What the Prime Minister has promised is a reflection of a resurgence in the accepted importance of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) around the world. There is now evidence these subjects must be included in all levels of schooling, so that students will have the skills and qualifications that will be needed to secure a job in the future.

If you break down STEM and look at roles that require specialist skills in at least one of the four areas, then nearly every role has a STEM requirement. If you think about it, the mechanic servicing your car, the accountant completing your tax return and the checkout operator at your supermarket all require knowledge of technology and maths to troubleshoot any issues they might come across.

STEM subjects help give you the skills you’ll require

An Australian report called How Young People Are Faring, released last year, found young people will — as they go into the workforce — need to have excellent enterprise skills, digital literacy, critical thinking, creativity, financial savvy, flexibility, the ability to collaborate and self-sufficiency. It is well recognised that changes need to be made to the education systems of many countries, but certainly every jobseeker would benefit from developing and learning some of these skills and capabilities. 

Like many industries, mining is a high-technology industry and every job requires some interaction with, and knowledge of, technology. That is only going to continue and evolve as time goes on and technology improves. Those with STEM subjects in their educational background and qualifications will be best placed to take advantage of the sorts of jobs the mining industry creates — whether you want to be down in the pit blasting rock or back in the office analysing the latest geotechnical data.