I’ve got to say I’m very excited about the prospects for jobs within the Defence industry and I’m excited for South Australia. I think a lot of credit for this should go to the Minister who has done so much to get behind Australia’s Defence industry
As we all know, South Australia is about to embark on two major projects that will create significant and sustained change, that will have far reaching benefits beyond the state borders of South Australia.
To provide some context, the shipbuilding projects this state is about to embark on are much bigger than the Snowy River Scheme.
In essence South Australia is about to embark on two Snowy River Schemes at the same time.
These programs have the opportunity to deliver some serious economic growth for this State and the nation.
Projects such as these require immense planning - and this planning cannot be completed in isolation. Close collaboration with academia to create a talent pipeline, industry to support and deliver the work, and the Navy and Government to set and agree timeframes.
In terms of jobs, shipbuilding will create 25,000 jobs, direct and indirect, over several decades.
This will be some of the most skilled people in Australia working with unique systems and solutions to solve complex problems, to support our service men and women, and pioneer new technologies.
Our workforce planning indicates that the demand for jobs for shipbuilding will outstrip supply. Highly paid jobs will be a beacon attracting skilled professionals from across the nation.
At BAE Systems Australia we are proudly building capacity in jobs of the future through ensuring our employees have access to the development and training to help them continue to advance their skills, and through our early career programs to help Australia keep pace with the growing demand for skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
This year nearly 40 new graduates started with us. In 2019 we will be recruiting an additional 65. And if our bid to build the future frigates is successful we will see the number of young people on an early career program grow to nearly 150 in any given year.
It is important that young Australians understand all of the opportunities the Defence Industry can offer.
STEM based roles make up 60% of our workforce in Australia. Not only are these talent pools in scarce supply globally, they are predicted to shrink further.
Sourcing talent is difficult, but sourcing diverse STEM talent is even more challenging. That’s why our focus on contributing to the development of diverse STEM talent is so vital to our future success.
We should also be banging the drum for young Australians to complete apprenticeships in steelwork, mechanical, electrical and technical trades as they will be critical skills for decades to come. Let's promote the avenues this opens to work on some of the most sophisticated kit in the world, which enables those who put their lives on the line for us to have the best chance of coming home safely.
Academia needs investment that fosters partnerships, commercialisation of ideas and contributes to a thriving, innovative and globally competitive industry, as that will attract the best and brightest and advance our technological knowhow.
The national shipbuilding college will have a vital role to play in developing, supporting and sustaining the skills required to create an enduring industry. The college will be critical to the development of these skills and will be pivotal in driving the policy reform and multilateral approach required to succeed.
Having a strong engineering and manufacturing industry is good for any economy, particularly if that industry creates exports as well as servicing national needs. For developed countries like Australia, competing in the high volume production markets against developing countries is difficult.
Having a high standard of living is something we enjoy, but we pay for it with our lack of price competitiveness in some areas.
One way to combat this lack of price competitiveness is through leveraging our high skill base. It is therefore important that we, Australia, focus on industries that demand a highly skilled workforce. That is where we get the competitive advantage.
The need for innovation drives a need for highly skilled personnel.
Nothing drives the need for innovation like competition or survival. And since both of these characteristics underpin Defence requirements, it is no surprise that the Defence Industry has one of the highest skill levels.
We in business have a responsibility to ensure we are educating society on this point – through highly-skilled people, new technologies, virtual engineering models and new manufacturing techniques, we can transform the defence industry into a leader for Australia.
The approach to Defence innovation by the Commonwealth Government is absolutely vital, not just because it is critical to maintaining Australia’s ability to continue providing leading edge defence capabilities, and for ensuring sovereign control over those technologies and capabilities, but it is also vital for economic purposes, as Australia seeks to transition from a resource-led to a technology-led economy.
To ensure a healthy Defence Industry we need to support the development of Australian technologies and products and support the continued development of our skilled workforce.
To achieve this we – Government, Defence, Industry and Academia - need to work as an enterprise to ensure that our country receives full benefit from a healthy Defence Industry.
I look forward to helping BAE Systems Australia build on its 65 years of service to the nation. We want to be here in 65 years’ time. And the work to deliver that future is, I assure you, well under way.