Hydrography News – March 2022

March 4, 2022


A special welcome to the hydrography members who have recently joined SSSI.

  • Luis Polido de Souza, QLD
  • ​Osman Syed, OS
  • Shereen Sharma, WA


Introducing the SSSI National HC Committee for 2022

  • Neil Hewitt (Chair)
  • Paul Kennedy (Deputy Chair)
  • Owen Cantrill (CPD Chair)
  • Adam Muckalt (AHO Ex-officio)
  • Jasbir Randhawa (AHSCP Secretary)
  • John Maschke
  • Ian Jackson
  • Rebecca Formanek
  • Celine Roux
  • Martin Tunwell
  • Andrew Bembrick
  • Jennifer Brindle
  • Stuart Edwards
  • Nathan Greene
  • Samuel Houston
  • David Field
  • Simon Ironside
  • Stuart Caie

The future of STEM careers.

The decline in participation rates of students undertaking science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects has been well documented in Australia. Further, the profile of those who do participate in STEM, is narrow, with women, working-class and some ethnic minority groups underrepresented.

STEM learning is extremely important for students in their adolescent years. The ability to understand data, apply data and develop solutions to complex problems are important life skills. They will continue to be, and more so in the future with the rise of new technologies such as autonomous vehicles, and artificial intelligence. It will be vital to Australia’s economic growth.

Hydrographic surveying is not the only science-based industry that has concerns about their future workforce. These concerns include skill shortages and recruitment challenges that pose risk to the future of work. Several working groups are already established and working to combat the problem, but more needs to be done collectively, and now.

Currently, primary and secondary students do not understand the importance of STEM, and are not familiar with STEM career opportunities, until later in their studies, or at all. Data from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment states, the number of school students studying STEM in later secondary (Year 11 and 12) has flat-lined at around 10% or less. Australia is slipping down the international ranking tables as other countries improve. In 2003, 4 countries or economies significantly outperformed Australia in PISA mathematics. In 2018, the number was 23. The bottom line is, we are failing to engage young people in science, resulting in fewer choosing it as a career choice.

Schools, businesses, and other industry working groups have already started working to improve the participation of people in STEM careers. However, a more collective approach is required for long-term benefit. Firstly, we need to shift STEM’s out-dated attitudes and stereotypes. Secondly, raise awareness and support students to understand the realities and needs of the STEM workforce, such as introducing students to the wide-ranging applications and fields a career in science could look like, and the opportunities ahead. Thirdly, improve career counselling opportunities for students, such as presentations and career expos, field days, and internship placements within industry.

Research suggests primary student’s attitudes towards science are largely shaped by stereotypes. Picture an old and greying man who resembles Albert Einstein, wearing a white lab coat, goggles, and holding a conical flask! Of course, STEM sectors are much more diverse than this stereotype suggests with many different people from all backgrounds, and who have taken many different routes into their career. STEM professionals work in labs, at universities, at innovation centres, out on construction sites or in the field, and in businesses. It is so broad, we could never list them all. However, students need an exposure to the varying applications to spark their curiosity and inspire them to follow a STEM career path. This awareness would support students to understand the importance of the STEM workforce, and the potential opportunities ahead.

Historically, hydrographic surveying has been focused on the creation of charts and safety of navigation, but with the world’s need for more resources, better communication and eagerness for knowledge, hydrographic surveying is undertaken for far greater pursuits. Not to lessen the importance of safety of navigation, but hydrographic surveying encompasses essential activities for environmental assessment, offshore construction, pipeline inspection, offshore renewables, coastal zone management, dredging and many more marine related pursuits. Proof that a hydrography/STEM career is diverse, has been driven by technology and will continue to be, and is vital to our nation and the world!

If we can engage a variety of STEM professionals and researchers to share with students their stories, such as their day-to-day work, the wide-ranging use of technology and the impact their work has on the community or wider, we may be able to ignite ‘curiosity’ in our youth, and an eagerness to learn more. This would also showcase the diversity of the STEM workforce, the broad range of jobs and careers available, and that STEM professionals can be from all walks of life. The messaging that science is for ALL people.

Although it is simply not enough to highlight a range of careers to which science can lead, although it is a good start. It’s vital that Australia keeps pace with technological change to advance its economy and prosperity. Without adequate STEM skills and understanding in Australia, there is a risk that companies searching for these skills will be forced to set up elsewhere. However, if we prepare Australians for the jobs of the future, we will enjoy a thriving cycle of jobs and opportunities.

Internships and work experience opportunities allow students to gain an insight and see firsthand what a career would be like. Studies in Australia which followed groups of young people from childhood to adulthood, discovered that teenagers who combined part-time employment with full-time education transitioned better than students who left school and went straight into the workforce. Participating in an internship or work experience can also help students to learn several essential ‘soft’ skills, such as time management, communication, and how to work in a team. The new generation of STEM professionals require not just strong academic skills, but also curiosity, imagination, empathy, entrepreneurship, and resilience.

The gap between the knowledge generated in the education system and the skills demanded by employers and individuals is widening. Several models of school-industry engagement are already in place across Australia, ranging from 'single school-single company’ models, through to larger hub-type arrangements involving many partners, but there is more work to do. Schools are the principal means by which we instil these skills and interests in our youth, but it is industry that understands the interplay between the cutting edge of its science and our everyday world. As such, we need businesses and schools to work together to ensure that our teachers and students are provided with the most up-to-date scientific methods and information. It is a daunting challenge and one that requires an understanding and appreciation of each other’s drivers - the development of different models of working and interacting together and most importantly, teachers and career counsellors who are encouraged and supported.

It is not a matter for just one science-based industry to promote, but a collective effort in promoting the diversity of the career prospects and be inclusive in approaches early on in an adolescent’s school life to realise the full potential of future generations.

Bec Mousley, Precision Hydrographic Services.


The  IHO Empowering Women in Hydrography Project is looking to support activities that provide opportunities for women to become more aware, be involved or be empowered to achieve. Opportunities can be shore or sea based, educational or hands on, individuals or groups. You can see examples of the projects already underway on the IHO website International Hydrographic Organization (iho.int).

There is also a template to outline potential projects. As mentioned some funding has generously been provided by Canadian Hydrographic Service. There are also links to the Canadian experience and how they went about establishing a national women in hydrography network.

If you have any comments or queries please email the Hydro Commission secretariat suling.meimaris@sssi.org.au 


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