16 November 2023

Premier & Deputy Prime Minister release SA defence industry workforce plan

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Malinauskas and Marles in hi-vis

SA Premier Peter Malinauskas and Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles explore the Osborne shipyard in Adelaide. Photo: ADF.

A plan to increase the skills base of a future South Australian defence industry workforce has been released.

The South Australian Defence Industry Workforce and Skills Report and Action Plan was released by Premier Peter Malinauskas and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles on 10 November.

It lays out the requirements for delivering some of Australia’s biggest defence projects over the next few decades, including the plan to build nuclear-powered submarines in Adelaide from the late 2030s and a continuous naval shipbuilding program.

The report outlines 22 initiatives to address workforce challenges and grow the South Australian defence industry workforce from 3,500 direct jobs to more than 8,500 in the 2040s.

These initiatives are aimed at engaging an estimated 27,000 students and 1,500 teachers in at least 180 South Australian schools to support STEM education pathways for students, and to establish an industry capability pipeline of around 2,600 additional VET and university students through flexible training programs, technical colleges and STEM-focused higher-education places.

The report also recommends the employment of more apprentices, graduates and undergraduates through the Early Careers Program, engaging and upskilling experienced workers and industry leaders through mid-career transition programs, and improving workforce data and insights across industry and government.

Other recommendations include promoting defence industry workforce opportunities, better connecting jobs with potential candidates through a multi-tiered communications strategy, strengthening STEM evaluations through a consistent methodology and supporting industry to sponsor security clearances to engage highly skilled workers from our AUKUS partners.

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A joint release says growing the defence industry workforce in South Australia requires a coordinated and collaborative approach.

“This report presents a comprehensive and methodical plan to grow, build and sustain the South Australian defence industry workforce, which is critical to the delivery of SSN-AUKUS, continuous naval shipbuilding and our other defence projects,” Mr Marles said.

“Some initiatives will leverage and expand on existing programs, building on substantial work already underway across government, defence industry and education and VET sectors. Other initiatives are new to help address identified skills gaps.

“Collaborative and enduring partnerships between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments, defence industry, unions and education and training providers will underpin this critical workforce expansion and capability uplift over time.”

Premier Malinauskas said South Australia will play a leading role in building Australia’s industrial base by building the most complex machines in the world.

“Our critical national defence projects, including nuclear-powered submarines, will be delivered with the strength of a highly educated, highly trained workforce with the cutting edge skills and capabilities of the future,” he said.

“The challenge to grow and sustain a highly skilled defence industry workforce cannot be understated, but neither can the opportunity.

“The South Australian Defence Industry Workforce and Skills Taskforce has enabled our South Australian and Commonwealth Governments to work together towards a common goal – an agile and highly skilled local workforce equipped to execute Defence’s most complex national security projects.

“It is my hope the integrated workforce and skills plan for South Australia can be used as a best practice model for workforce expansion across the defence industry nationally.”

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