MELBOURNE (Reuters) – When the song “Eagle Rock” played at a bar in an outback Australian mining town of Kalgoorlie late one night, a dozen young men scattered around a pool table dropped their trousers and heartily sang along in their underwear.
Later that night, they piled behind the counter of the bar attached to the Western Australian School of Mines (WASM), singing an anthem that began, “We are engineers,” and finished with an obscene description of how they treat women.
The scenes, in the background of an industry conference, cut against a hard reality the sector faces: a dearth of skilled applicants, and a workforce hurting for diversity and struggling to hire women.
“If we could attract more women, it could go a long way to helping any future skills shortage,” said Paul Cooper, regional chief executive of mining for recruiting company Sodexo, which is a key supplier to the industry and whose workforce is almost half women.
Without change, the outlook is grim. Enrolments in mining engineering courses across Australia have fallen to roughly 30 this year from more than 250 during the last boom a half decade ago.