Olivia Gall had always dismissed mining as something “not for her”, until she took part in UNSW's Minerals Summer School.
Some of Olivia Gall’s earliest memories are of her father building their family home and wondering to herself ‘how does that work?’, but classmates thought she was “crazy” when she started talking about a career in mining engineering.
Engineering is a field still dominated by men, with just 13.5 percent of mining engineering graduates women, making Gall’s an unorthodox choice.
“It’s never really deterred me that there’s not many, it’s just excited me to know that I can be growing women in engineering,” says Gall, who this week received an offer for UNSW’s Bachelor of Mining Engineering program.
“I actually think it’s a bonus that there’s not many, I feel really special being able to have the opportunity to be part of the next generation.”
Boosting the number of women studying engineering is a key priority for UNSW Engineering, targeting 25 percent first-year female enrolments by 2020. At 22 percent in 2014, UNSW already rates well above the national average.
There was a record number of applications for the University’s annual Women in Engineering Camp for Year 11 and 12 students in 2015, with numbers tripling on previous years.
Most of Gall’s friends from Sydney’s all-girls St Vincent’s College excelled in the humanities and are studying arts – she is one of only two women in her graduating class to choose engineering. Classmates were “shocked” when she first started talking about mining.
Engineering is in Gall’s blood – her grandfather, father and brother are all in the field – but she had always dismissed mining as something that was “not for me”, until she attended a UNSW Open Day as a Year 10 student.
“When they started talking about it, I was hooked. It’s just so broad, there are so many different facets to the field and opportunities to travel. It’s got everything that I like in one degree: the maths and science, I’m a communicator, I’m a bit of a people person,” she says.
Attending the 2013 UNSW Minerals Summer School, a four-day residential program for Year 10 and 11 students with an interest in the minerals industry, clinched her decision.
The annual camp offers high school students hands-on experience in the resources sector, with tours of underground and open-cut mines in the Hunter Valley and talks from experts and graduates.
“The summer school was instrumental, if I didn’t have the practical experience of being there and seeing if I fit in and felt comfortable I wouldn’t be here,” she says.
“I was just set on it from that moment, I’ve not really wavered from mining engineering since.”
George Moulos, a Year 11 student from Newington College, left this week’s 2015 summer school “inspired”.
“I was interested in mining engineering, I knew I wanted to do it, but I wasn’t completely sure,” he says.
“But now, after speaking to mining engineers, having the practical experience, I know 100 percent this is what I want to do. I was made for this, I’m very passionate about it.”
Despite a downturn in Australia’s resources sector, mining engineering graduates retain some of the best prospects of finding full-time employment.
According to the most recent Graduate Careers Australia data 96 percent of those looking found full-time work within four months of finishing their degree, with a median starting salary of $95,000.
Words: Amy Coopes
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