The Government is making an unprecedented investment into Defence capability of around $200 billion, over the next decade.
While this investment marks positive news for the modernisation of Defence’s capability, it represents only part of the equation.
The modernisation of Australia’s Defence capability will create more opportunities for Australians to use their expertise, experience and trade and technical skills to supply and support the Australian Defence Force.
Australian workers will be required to build and maintain fleets of new ships, submarines, armoured vehicles, infrastructure and facilities, and contribute to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber and other electronic and information based Defence capabilities. Australian design, construction, integration, sustainment, services and support capabilities will all be critical.
But there is a challenge ahead for Australia to meet the need for suitably skilled workers – a Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) deficit is emerging and the nation is falling behind its global peers. These STEM skill shortages will limit business’ ability to recruit and to innovate.
“A coordinated national approach to sustainable workforce skilling, to assist Defence and industry to work closely in meeting the projected demands of the Integrated Investment Program in a collaborative way is needed.” says the Department of Defence’s (DoD) Assistant Secretary of Defence Industry, Matt Ramage.
“We need to better harmonise the resources that are invested across Defence, and more broadly, to ensure the sector is adequately skilled to support its future.”
While concerted efforts are being made by the Department of Defence to help address the issue – including the Schools Pathway Program, the Naval Shipbuilding College and the Defence Engineering Internship Program – there is still a need for a broader, and more collaborative approach, says Mr Ramage.
“It’s a matter for collaborative discussion. We need to look practically at the forthcoming demand for defence industry, decide which skills we need to foster and identify what building blocks which need to be put in place to achieve that”.
Matt Ramage will give further insight into this topic at the inaugural STEM in Defence Summit, being held on 30 November in Canberra.