STEM growth booster

A PROGRAM that has helped get almost 300 career scientists into the workforce is celebrating its 10th year.

Dave Sammut speaking at Future of Mining Sydney 2023.

Dave Sammut speaking at Future of Mining Sydney 2023.

The Royal Australian Chemical Institute Careers and Mentoring programs helps chemistry students work out what they want to do in the science field once they finish university and build the networks to help them get that first job.

RACI Careers Events and Webinars would be organising a National Online Careers Fair on March 31 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its career work.

That event will bring together more than 40 employers with more than 400 students and early career scientists across Australia.

Dave Sammut, an industrial chemist with more than three decades experience, runs the mentoring program.

Sammut said the idea behind the RACI mentoring and career programs was to give students extra training and help them develop professional networks.

"Ninety per cent of our people graduated with jobs waiting for them," he said.

"Fifty per cent of our students not only don't know what they want to do and they don't know what's available to them."

That is a challenge for many students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

To that end a RACI team is putting together a career map to help prospective scientists know what is available to them once their studies are complete.

One program particularly close to Sammut's heart is one he personally piloted in 2022 called Job Advocacy.

That program takes from backgrounds traditionally overlooked by employers.

One case involved a woman who had come to Australia from Egypt who had been almost one year out of work.

Even though she was a qualified and experienced pharmaceutical analytical chemist she could not even get an interview for a job stacking shelves in a supermarket.

After one month in the program she was able to land a job as a pharmaceutical chemist.

Obviously not all the work the RACI Careers and Mentoring program steers participants towards is in the mining sector.

However, as Sammut points out, many science students are unaware of the opportunities the mining industry provides.

He is a case in point himself.

After graduating with honours as an industrial chemist Sammut headed off to Europe for three months.

On his return he went back to his university and asked what was available.

He was told about a pilot plant that was "looking for some warm bodies".

That three-week project has evolved into a 30-year career in the mining industry.

It has also led to Sammut's "day job" as founder and managing director of Loop Hydrometallurgy.

Loop took part in the start-up pitch battle at the recent Future of Mining Sydney.

Its technology is designed to extract copper into a chloride solution.

"It makes it practical to extract the copper at the back end of the chloride extraction process using 70% less electricity," Sammut said.

"We can put the final piece into the puzzle.

"It produces copper, water and environmentally stable waste that can stay at the mine site.

"Modelling has the cost at US18c per pound."

Loop's approach is not limited to copper either. Sammut said it could be applied to rare earths and platinum group metals right at the mine site.

He said since Future of Mining Sydney, Loop had "not raised a cent but we've been having great conversations.

"I came back from the Future of Mining with about 20 strong leads."


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