Attitudinal and Economic Realities in a Global Geoscience Workforce

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The geosciences, like all technical fields in the developed world, are facing a critical talent shortage. The retirement of the Baby-Boomers is now playing out and the long feared brain-drain is underway.   At the same time, relative enrollments in technical fields is declining, and absolute enrollments are, at best, remaining steady in the geosciences. The current supply is orders of magnitude insufficient to meet the rising demand for new geosciences workers, and when evaluated for quality, the pool is even smaller.

Several factors complicate the future of the geosciences in the United States. US student attitudes relative to the nature of career opportunities do not map well to the economic realities. Geosciences majors disfavor the primary pool of careers because of their attitudes towards the private sector and geographic mobility. Likewise, the resource industries of petroleum and mining are now competing with strong demand in groundwater careers, and by non-traditional industries seeking the analytic skill sets central to a geologic – spatial conceptualization and analysis. 

This paper examines the data and trends currently being witnessed, and the various means by which geosciences employers are addressing the issues. Additionally, these trends and responses will be compared and contrasted to other areas around the world by examining the results of the AGI-sponsored workshop on global geosciences workforce at the 33rd International Geologic Congress in Oslo, Norway in August 2008.

  • Christopher Keane*
  • P. Patrick Leahy*
  • Cindy Martinez*
  • AIPG Annual Meeting 2008