Corporate Social Responsibility is a now a mainstream, well-practised undertaking by both small and large companies in our communities – and it makes sense for companies to give back – through employment, royalties, community grants and the like.
So for environmental activists, including Lock the Gate, to criticise industry for sponsoring a local education campaign about coal seam gas (CSG) feels a little hyper-critical. So hyper-critical, that this week they chose to attack industry and the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy (QMEA) for their support for learning and development opportunities for school students.
The QMEA is a virtual academy, providing a pipeline for students interested in resources sector careers and works with multiple state, catholic and independent schools across Queensland.
A number of industry operators and third party contractors provide support both financially and in-kind, including advice to QMEA, schools and teachers, involvement in events such as teacher professional development activities, site tours, challenges and employment of academy students post school.
The draft unit overview noted that “with the demand for energy predicted to increase by fifty percent over the next decade, coal seam gas, is set to become an increasingly important source of Queensland’s energy needs, both for its internal requirements and its growing energy export industry.”
Since then, the economic impact that the CSG sector has had on Queensland has been substantial. Over the past eight years, the Queensland minerals and energy sector has generated more than $531 billion in value to the state.
- $635 million in wages paid to 4,156 full time employees
- Spent $3.4 billion on goods and services, benefitting 3,091 local businesses while also benefitting 169 community organisations
- Contributed $97 million in royalties which were shared across the state
- While only using 0.1% of Queensland’s land mass
The significant contribution is a reflection of the impact and future contribution the oil and gas industry will continue to have in the state, so why shouldn’t interested students be able to pursue a career in the industry? Jobs, after all, are a critical issue in rural and regional areas.
So in 2016-17 alone industry employed 4,156 full-time individuals, many of whom may have been students originally supported by initiatives such as the QMEA’s.
It hardly seems fair to push the activist’s anti-fossil fuel agenda on high school students who are making decisions about their future and the careers that they would like to pursue. Engineers, geologists and land access professionals are just some of the career options that a school-aged student may follow into higher education – and those decision’s are their own.
In fact, the original draft course structure had a focus on environmental considerations, as it discussed “the environmental impact of coal seam gas is studied through the investigation of a Environmental Impact Statement”.
An EIS is submitted to Government as a requirement that assesses the project’s likely environmental impacts and measures proposed to avoid or minimise any adverse impacts. It forms an essential part of a rigorous assessment by the regulator.
So, in fact, the course was designed to educate interested students about the value of co-existence, about respecting the land and appreciating how industry can work with other land users to create benefits for the entire of Queensland – not to mention the rest of Australia.
Earlier this month Queensland Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk declared this week that Australia’s East Coast needs to produce more gas – and then backed up her words with an announcement of expanded exploration opportunities.
With this expansion in exploration, there will be a natural demand for an uplift in those able and willing to work in the industry.
For high-school students interested in the resources industry – and potentially eager to follow after others in their families or communities – early exposure and industry focused education and exposure can create a distinct professional advantage.