Drone technology is helping to attract young people into the Defence force in an increasingly competitive STEM recruitment landscape.
Much like the rest of the world, Australia is experiencing a shortage of STEM-qualified entrants into the – now heavily STEM-dominated – job market, and drones are helping to bridge this gap.
Drones have reached an almost cult-like status in recent years. Initially deployed in military combat and surveillance, they have since become popular tools in the realms of sports photography and leisure, sparking a national obsession amongst Gen Z archetypes.
Lieutenant Colonel Keirin Joyce tells us that the Australian Army exploits this fascination in its recruitment outreach efforts.
“Younger people today are a ‘gamified generation’ and they get really excited when you put a controller in their hands that looks and feels like a gaming system,” he says, ahead of the ADM STEM in Defence Summit.
“It’s almost a form of escapism for them. With that controller they can do things that a human being can’t – like fly, travel long distances really quickly, and explore previously unseen domains and viewpoints.
“We’ve found that all the young kids are well-accustomed to this technology and the uptake has been really effective,” he adds.
Drone technology is now deployed in each unit within the Australian Army, including Cooks, Ordnance Companies, Transport Squadron, Military Police, Water Transport and Recovery Companies with Reserve units also receiving training. Personnel can fly drones as a full-time profession (Unmanned Aerial Systems Operator), or as part of a broader role.
“We let people know that anybody can fly a drone in Army. Soon, even truck drivers and combat engineers will have drone flying incorporated into their everyday roles,” says LTCOL Joyce.
“Within Army, you can also take part in drone flying for fun. Much in the same way you may have a corporate sports team – like rugby or netball – we offer drone racing as a competitive, team-building and leisure activity with international competitions on offer,” he adds.
As part of its outreach efforts, the Australian Army has participated in several major events, including Science Alive, which allowed them to get in front of more than 6,000 children; and has done pop-up work in numerous schools and tradeshows throughout the country. It also staged its second annual drone racing tournament last year and will host a third later this year.
LTCOL Joyce says he hopes the initiatives will support whole-of-government efforts to increase the output of STEM graduates in an increasingly competitive marketplace. “We are one of many STEM employers. And we are doing everything we can to ensure that we are in the position of being able to pick, rather than fight over candidates in the future.”
LTCOL Keirin Joyce will share further details of the Australian Army’s STEM recruitment efforts at the Australian Defence Magazine’s STEM in Defence Summit, due to take place 13 August 2019 in Canberra.