Monash's renewables move

MOVING on a global trend that is reportedly seeing more people employed in renewable energy than oil and gas, Monash University has launched a new engineering program that covers the emerging sector as well as the coal sector which its founder believes will have a significant role to play for some to come.
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Bre-Anne_Sainsbury

Anthony Barich

The renewable energy sector is going through a period of rapid expansion, as evidenced by the International Renewable Energy Agency reporting recently that the sector currently employs more than 8.1 million people globally, a 5% increase from last year and more than the number believed to be directly employed in the oil and gas industry.

Associate Professor Bre-Anne Sainsbury is the founding director of Resources Engineering at Monash, a new Engineering program designed with the needs of the resources industry in mind – “resources” being defined widely, with undergraduate degrees being offered including renewable energy engineering, oil and gas engineering, geological engineering and mining engineering.

There are strong links across the four degrees, and despite the “end of the boom” in Australian resources more broadly being compounded by historic low prices, particularly in the oil sector, Sainsbury is not worried there will be a lack of interest in the courses.

“There are always going to be jobs in the resources sector, and our new program covers the full spectrum,” she said.

“We’re never going to stop needing minerals – for technology and almost everything we use every day.

“Renewable and alternative energy use is growing exponentially, but traditional coal and hydrocarbon energy sources will be required long into the future, to meet our ever-growing energy demands.

“We’re engaging with industry on multiple levels to ensure our students will be absolutely at the forefront of technology.

“Our industry education partners will provide practicing engineering professionals to help us deliver current and dynamic content, to ensure our graduates are relevant and industry ready.”

Newcrest Mining, MMG, Woodside, Orica, CSIRO and many other companies, including renewable energy firms, are all involved in development and delivery of the resources engineering content.

The course director also spruiked the “unique, multi-disciplinary” nature of the new degrees.

“It’s a new way of teaching, in that we’re embracing and including all STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] disciplines,” she said.

“We’re delivering course content from each engineering department at Monash, and across several other faculties, dipping into their science and business expertise.”

Former Newcrest executive Debra Stirling, who chairs the mining and resources advisory board and who helped develop the new resources engineering program, said a key objective of the new program was to give students the opportunity to develop professional networks and secure jobs before they graduate.

She also previously helped establish mining engineering at Monash in 2013.

“We’re definitely giving the students a practical skill set so that they can hit the ground running,” Stirling said.

“Essentially, we want to ensure they’re job ready, with a real understanding of operating in a global environment with multiple factors to consider. That’s what industry is looking for.”

Sainsbury’s message to prospective students is that the resources industry remains strong and sustainable.

“Of all the resources programs out there, I think we’re more equipped to think outside the box and adapt to changing industry needs,” she said.

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