In a watershed moment for local industry involvement with the Hunter Class program, the first shipbuilding apprentices participating in the build were welcomed to the Osborne Naval Shipyard on Monday.
The 18 local students – who make up the first of 1,000 apprentices and graduates scheduled to participate over the life cycle of the program – were selected from 10 South Australian secondary schools.
The apprenticeship program allows students to embark on the training while still completing school, and will offered across steelwork, mechanical, electrical and technical trades.
According to ASC Shipbuilding's Hunter Class frigate program managing director, Craig Lockhart, the move represents an "important and significant step" for the build. Lockhart adds that avenues such as the apprenticeship route "are important in creating long and rewarding careers in the industry".
Key federal government ministers also lauded praise on the move, with Defence Minister Melissa Price stating that the young men and women involved "are the future of the Australian government’s National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise".
“This apprenticeship program complements the work that ASC Shipbuilding is doing with its Diploma of Digital Technology. This is a terrific program that began earlier this year and which teaches the digital technology skills needed to work on the Hunter Class frigates," she added.
Interestingly, the news comes shortly after the government has reaffirmed its commitment to both economic initiatives and sovereign naval industrial capability.
“Now more than ever, creating new jobs, especially for young people, is a national priority and we’re pleased to play our part in supporting the nation’s economic recovery," added Lockhart.
“We are committed to building a diverse and skilled workforce in Australia that will underpin an enduring shipbuilding capability, supporting Australia’s continuous naval shipbuilding journey for future generations.”
By the time the nine anti-submarine warfare frigates are built, ASC Shipbuilding estimates that three-quarters of the program workforce, including management and senior executives, will have started as graduates or apprentices.
A second intake of 22 students will occur later in the year, as part of a regular and rolling intake of apprentices each year of the Hunter Class frigate program.
In addition to the Hunter Class program, ASC is also responsible for construction activities on the Hobart Class air warfare destroyer as well as the delivery of sustainment activities for the Collins Class submarines.
The nine Hunter Class frigates will be based on the BAE Systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship currently under construction for the Royal Navy and will replace the eight Anzac Class frigates when they enter service beginning in the late 2020s.
The Hunter Class is billed as an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) centric vessel delivering an advanced ASW capability to the Royal Australian Navy at a time when 50 per cent of the world’s submarines will be operating in the Indo-Pacific region.
The $35 billion program sees ASC Shipbuilding become a subsidiary of BAE Systems throughout the build process beginning in 2020 at the Osborne Shipyard in South Australia, creating more than 4,000 jobs.
BAE Systems expects the Australian industry content (AIC) for the Hunter Class build will be 65-70 per cent, which will create and secure thousands of jobs for decades.
At the end of the program the Commonwealth will resume complete ownership of ASC Shipbuilding, thereby ensuring the retention in Australia of intellectual property, a highly skilled workforce and the associated equipment.
SEA 5000 is expected to support over 500 Australian businesses who have been pre-qualified to be part of the Hunter Class supply chain, with the Australian steel industry in particular, benefiting from the 48,000 tonnes of steel required to build the ships.