Gabby Costigan - CEO, BAE Systems Australia
I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the conversation today and share with you my thoughts on the skills, people and education eco-system required for the next industrial revolution.
There are inevitably a range of inputs for delivering industrial capability. When we think about this we consider the supply chain required, the technology investments, and of course the strategic intent of the Australian Defence Force.
In my view one of the most important inputs is having the right people with the right skills in place at the right time.
Without planning for this, as a company, and as an industry, we will be challenged to achieve the task we have at hand - to deliver the capability that the Australian Defence Force needs.
For those of you who heard Geoff Searle speak earlier today about leveraging continuous shipbuilding and data analytics to support the RAN adaptability, you will know that the Hunter Class Frigate Program is not just about providing the latest in technology and capability for the Navy.
It is also about providing the foundation for Australia’s continuous naval shipbuilding strategy and growing Australian industry capability to ensure there will be a sovereign shipbuilding industry beyond the Hunter program.
This is no mean feat. It is a program that will span decades and from a skills perspective will employ individuals who have not been born yet.
Over its life the program will create and sustain more than 5,000 Australian jobs across BAE Systems and the wider Australian defence supply chain.
At its peak in 2028, ASC Shipbuilding will directly employ around 2,400 people at the Osborne Naval Shipyard.
And around 1,000 graduates and apprentices will begin their career on this program.
While we don’t know all of the technologies that this new, expanded workforce will work with, we do know, as in many other industries, their jobs will change.
Modern shipbuilding is not what people perceive it to be – it is driven by innovative technology that needs to attract Australia’s best and brightest talent to succeed.
It’s not just metal bashing and construction – its complex systems integration, software engineering, communications, and advanced manufacturing techniques.
Employees will use a range of new technologies to enhance the highly-skilled work they do – leading to productivity, safety and quality outcomes.
Imagine instead of paper drawings, employees are accessing the design in real time on an iPad, or they’re tracking materials from suppliers using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.
The skill base that Hunter is supporting and growing is diverse and touches on a huge range of engineering and technical trade disciplines.
This change in the way we work will require new skills, new training and capability of a different kind.
Skills – not just needed for building ships
But, our resourcing challenge extends beyond building ships.
Skills for Australia’s naval sustainment industry are also important.
I think that often the resourcing needs for this industry don’t get the headlines they deserve, and therefore the potential workforce are not as well aware of the opportunities that abound.
For example, it may not be well known that today from five sites across the nation, BAE Systems has more than 1,000 skilled individuals sustaining six classes of vessels for the Royal Australian Navy.
And in doing this work, our people have developed a deep expertise in sustainment, utilising new solutions and growing technology.
The skills required to sustain our new fleets, including the Hunter Class, will no doubt be different, and as an industry we need to prepare for that today.
Yesterday we heard from Rear Admiral Wendy Malcolm on the future of maritime sustainment and Plan Galileo. I applaud Government on this new way of thinking which will fundamentally transform the way we approach maritime sustainment.
BAE is continually evolving the way we approach sustainment, moving away from an element that is considered after the delivery of the platform to an integral part of our design process.
Applying out digital design methodology we now have the capability to extract more information on the performance of the platform and the systems, leading to greater levels of availability and performance.
Sustaining our workforce
Preparing for tomorrow, today will be important. In many ways this is what being strategic is about.
And if industry is to behave like a Fundamental Input to Capability – it needs to be strategic.
Part of that preparation I believe is ensuring that we sustain the workforce we currently have in place.
Across the industry we have great skills, and talent – both blue and white collar.
I’ve met hundreds if not thousands of these individuals, and most, if not all of them, want to continue working in our naval shipbuilding and sustainment industry.
They have knowledge, passion, and experience – and as our work evolves, so will theirs.
We need to ensure we continue to invest in our people.
We need to identify the new skills that are required, and train and retrain – to build and retain the workforce we need for tomorrow.
This also needs to take into account the changing learning environment that current and future generations will be developed in.
An increasingly informed talent pool with a high level of technical knowledge, concerns around society and climate and an evolving visual learning style are all elements that will need to be considered and addressed in our current and future workforce training programs.
This will be a tectonic shift in our collaborative abilities to bring and enterprise approach to re-skilling our workforce of today and tomorrow.
A really good example of how we plan to do this is through a Digital Upskilling program for the Hunter Class Frigate Program.
Our plan is to roll this program out together with our education partners and the customer.
And to roll it out not just for a few workers, but for many, with the aim of creating a highly digitally skilled workforce.
Not only will this help to mitigate the risk of redundancy by retaining highly valued individuals, but it will also act to improve the productivity and efficiency of the workforce as a whole.
I’m sure you would agree that it is this type of approach that the ADF would like to see more of.
Collaboration between industry, government and academia
But BAE Systems can’t do this alone.
No one group can do it alone.
To successfully and sustainably deliver the skills when and where they are needed most requires a collaborative plan.
I believe that there is an urgent need to develop and deliver a comprehensive white paper that ensures we have a collaborative strategy – that meets not only one company’s needs, but all of industry, and that of the ADF.
A white paper that provides not just the vision, but the roadmap to success. And that has the buy-in and commitment from all players.
That integrates our education sector as partners, not as suppliers.
Let me pause there. The education sector is absolutely vital to our challenge. Not only will they train our future workforce, but they will invest in the R&D that will support the technology and capability of our future Defence Force.
The Education Sector must be seen as a true partner and an essential ingredient to Australian Industry Capability.
Today we are working on a paper that will describe in detail our view on the challenge and opportunity that we face from a skills perspective.
And we look forward to sharing that with you all in due course.
A new Degree Apprenticeship model
I suspect everyone in this room has resourcing challenges.
Many of us would place mobilisation of our workforce as one of the most significant organisational challenges we have.
I am confident we can succeed. Together there is work we can do today.
One of the activities that I believe we urgently need to address is the need for a new model for apprenticeships in our sector.
The demand for apprenticeships in our industry is something that should be applauded.
But we need to ensure that the apprentices coming out of training have the skills we need, and the standards are of the highest quality.
And we need to ensure that our education institutions are able and ready to provide the training to upskill our people in a way that allows them to evolve.
As I mentioned earlier the digital workplace is changing the way we work. It means our people will need to be flexible in their vocation, and it means flexibility in our education sector is critical.
I believe that a new Degree Apprenticeship model could help support this vision.
A new model that blends traditional academic degree education with vocational skills training as well as the requirements from our industry.
A model the ultimately provides young people with work ready skills, embracing the right knowledge, skills and behaviours.
I’m pleased to say that we are in discussions today with the customer and with education partners to pilot this approach with the aim of rolling it out comprehensively, in different states, and ultimately with multiple employers.
So, to conclude.
My message to you all is that we need to be innovative if we are to solve our skills challenge.
Not just as companies.
But as an industry.
As a sector.
As a country.
And that innovation should include how we project the brand of our industry.
I believe that there is a new market of talented people out there that simply don’t understand what our industry is about.
We need to do a better job of explaining the world of opportunities that working in our industry can open up.
I look forward to working with you all to achieve this, and in doing so better protecting our nation.