South Australia: building the defence workforce the nation needs

South Australia has a well-deserved reputation as the nation’s Defence State, responsible for the largest, most complex naval shipbuilding and Defence projects.

That leadership – and the growth of the local workforce – is set to be propelled to a whole new level, with the announcement that South Australia will be home to Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine build.

Children who are currently in primary school across Australia, will be the professionals working on and leading the submarine program in the future.

The workforce required to safely and securely build, operate, sustain and regulate Australia’s conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine fleet is diverse. It will require engineers, scientists, technicians, submariners, administrators and tradespeople and many more skilled professionals.

So while there are more than 14,000 workers employed in South Australia’s defence sector now, it is anticipated more than 10,000 jobs across all domains, will be added to the defence industry pipeline plus thousands more in adjacent industries over the next two decades.

The scale of future workforce requirements is the focus of strategic discussion among defence industry primes, small-to-medium enterprises, government and the education and training sector.

It’s the strength of these networks in South Australia, that’s giving defence industry leaders the confidence to drive workforce projects forward at a pace some say is not achievable in other jurisdictions.

Greater access to vocational education and training


Vocational education and training pathways are expanding with the establishment of five new technical colleges for senior high school students across South Australia.

The first of these, Findon Technical College, is due to open next year, and will focus on developing advanced manufacturing and engineering skills for the defence and shipbuilding industries.

Georgette Elston, BAE Systems Australia’s Head of Resourcing and Early Careers, said the company would be partnering with the College to help students gain a head start on a defence industry career.

“The College will be a straight feeder into our apprenticeship and degree apprenticeship programs – we’re excited to be expanding our excellent relationship with the education sector,” Ms Elston said.

Also involved in standing up the colleges is South Australia’s government-funded vocational education and training provider, TAFE SA. A major provider of defence industry training, TAFE SA has reported an increase in enrolments in fee-free courses this year, for qualifications that meet defence industry demands.

”There’s a job for everyone in defence,” according to TAFE SA’s Director of Strategic Industry Partnerships, Julie Pisano.

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