Opinion editorial by Angela Wiggins, Chief People Officer
BAE Systems Australia is one of the country’s largest engineering employers. Two-thirds of the 5500 people working at BAE Systems Australia have STEM qualifications.
We deliver mega projects including the Hunter class frigates, which alone will provide opportunities for up to 1000 additional apprentices and graduates, and we are rapidly growing our team that supports the Joint Strike Fighters and other aircraft.
STEM skills are core to the work we do developing and maintaining innovative, world-leading technologies and products for the Australian Defence Force.
As an Australian business leader, we are playing a lead role to nurture and inspire the next generation of Australian engineers, technologists and innovators.
In Australia and similar labour markets around the world, experienced skilled workers are in very high demand and unemployment remains at record low levels.
The demand for skilled labour continues to grow unabated – more and more jobs require post-secondary school qualifications according to the latest Jobs and Skills Australia Labour Market Update.
BAE Systems Australia recognises we are on the cusp of a generational workplace change. Flexibility has become very important, with culture and interesting work also being key decision factors for candidates choosing where they want to work.
Within two years, 75 per cent of Australia’s workforce will be millennials and technology adoption is also changing the way we work.
We have strong ongoing demand for software and systems engineers, aircraft maintainers and fabricators, for example – as do many other Australian companies.
To ensure we can access the talent when we need it, we are working with governments, the education sector and like-minded companies to develop the skills of our future workforce.
BAE Systems Australia is actively supporting organisations and activities that encourage young people to study STEM and provide early career opportunities including work experience, internships, apprenticeships and graduate roles.
We are working with other employers, AiGroup Centre for Education and Training and universities in South Australia and Victoria to develop the nation’s first degree apprentice programs.
These “earn while you learn” programs will focus on systems and software engineering as critical areas of need across multiple industry sectors.
Shipbuilding has undergone a digital revolution and we have invested in upskilling our workforce to adopt modern techniques that are both cost-effective and provide for a safer and more efficient work environment.
A key focus has been implementing Australia’s first digital shipbuilding course, the Diploma of Digital Technologies, developed collaboratively between BAE Systems Australia and Flinders University.
Since 2020, 450 people have entered the program with 50 per cent female participation. More than 120 people have completed the diploma so far.
In 2022, we launched Beacon, a national STEM education program to take technology into primary school classrooms in partnership with local edu-tech company Lumination. We are on track to reach 600 kids this year. Eighty per cent of last year’s participants now aspire to engineering or other STEM careers.
Our future workforce will include more people from diverse backgrounds. That is why we are also working with the Stars Foundation to support Indigenous girls and young women to attend and remain in school, complete year 12 and move into work or further study, and with Career Trackers to provide First Nations university students with summer and winter internships from second year.
In the UK and Australia, a core tenet of our resourcing strategy is to create strong integrated education and skills programs, built on close partnership and collaboration with government, professional bodies and education providers and inclusive of the local communities within which our business is situated.
In addition to education programs referred, we now have five academies operating in the UK which has enabled our business to rapidly grow our UK apprentice numbers with 90 per cent-plus completion rates.
To recruit the jobs of the future we need a creative lens. With the right policy settings from government, we can create new pathways to jobs through partnerships with tertiary institutions and schools.
For lasting gains to be achieved, STEM career exposure need to be better integrated into the curriculum at all levels, and a greater focus placed on diversity.
We need to create an end-to end environment that supports the education sector and industry working together on career awareness and course designs to address the demand for skills that are in high demand now and into the future.
BAE Systems’ mission is clear – we protect those who protect us. And looking forward, we are going to need a lot more hands on deck alongside the Australian Defence Force in a growing and innovative sector.