An organisation is only ever as good as its staff, and in the case of innovative and ground-breaking defence programs, the need for standout graduates is crucial. But is enough being done to attract graduates into Australia’s defence industry?
Defence Connect spoke with Northrop Grumman Australia chief executive Ian Irving, who has long been a vocal advocate for the defence industry, but he too fears that industry, academia and government is not doing all it can to promote a career in defence – and secure the absolute best graduates.
“I think we can all do more. Generally, across the country, there's not a deep appreciation of the opportunity that defence programs can give [graduates and students seeking career options],” said Irving.
“It's absolutely vital to our industry to be able to access those pipelines of students, and if we are going to deliver on the $195 billion of expenditure [as indicated by the 2016 Defence White Paper], we have to suck into our industry the best and brightest minds and have them contribute to successes in the future.”
Northrop Grumman Australia has taken a proactive stance to selling a career in defence industry to students in high schools and universities across Australia.
“We've been working a lot with the universities … to be able to explain to undergraduates the career opportunities and the excitement that you can get working on [defence] programs – and the great career development opportunities a company like ours can offer,” said Irving.
“We've even been working with the school sector. We're doing outreach in STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths], to get kids interested in technology [and] to get kids interested in maths so we can increase the gene pool, if you'd like, for the betterment of all companies in our sector.
“A lot of those kids won't come to work for us necessarily, but if they’re coming into this sector then that’s good for all of us.”
And, unsurprisingly, as an engineer graduate and now CEO of one of Australia's emergent prime contractors, Irving has been highly supportive of the government’s commitment to collaboration between Australia and the US to support the deepening of talent in defence industry.
“We're very encouraged by the recent announcements that Minister Christopher Pyne has made around university engagement, and the programs between the United States and Australia in the university sector,” Irving said.
“We've been engaging with a number of our key university partners on undergraduate programs. We've got scholarships in place and we're now starting to look at collaborative research – we've [already] got a couple of programs going in Australia and we've also got our technology director coming out to Australia to start up a number of specific programs in the latter part of this year.
“I think it really is important that we do engage with the university sector. It’s a sector that's not been well-connected with defence industry in the past. There’s tremendous potential there and our ability to engage with that sector, to do collaborative research that can then get turned into product and system solutions, is imperative.”
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