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Course graduates bolster Hunter Class workforce

Graduates of Australia’s first digital shipbuilding course have commenced work on Defence’s Hunter Class Frigate project.

Graduates of Australia’s first digital shipbuilding course have commenced work on Defence’s Hunter Class Frigate project.

Prime contractor for the Hunter Class Frigate program, BAE Systems, has welcomed 54 graduates and 25 apprentices to its national defence business.


The graduates and apprentices will now support BAE Systems’ national projects, which include the upgrade of the Jindalee Operational Radar Network and the delivery of the Hunter Class frigates, along with the prime’s other maritime and aircraft sustainment businesses.

Eighteen of the apprentices will work on the Hunter program, taking the total number of apprentices on the program to 36, while a further seven apprentices have been recruited to work at the Henderson facility in Western Australia, supporting the mid-life capability upgrade of the Anzac Class fleet.

“I am delighted that we continue to support a range of recruitment and work experience activities which support young people in our communities, right across the nation,” BAE Systems Australia CEO Gabby Costigan commented.

“Investing in a future workforce will help ensure that we develop the capability we need to deliver our future defence programs, including the Hunter Class frigates, the Jindalee Operational Radar Network and to support the men and women in the Australian Defence Force.”

Most of the graduates commencing work on the Hunter Class frigates completed the Diploma of Digital Technology — a course jointly run by BAE Systems and Flinders University.


The course was designed to train workers in the systems and processes required to build the Royal Australian Navy’s nine new anti-submarine warfare frigates.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the course has helped retain naval shipbuilding capability, with the graduates having a combined total of around 700 years of shipbuilding experience. 

“All 51 students who completed the course were originally working on the Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Project,” she noted.

“They will now begin work on the Hunter Project, with two students initially commencing on the Offshore Patrol Vessel Project.

“With the major milestone of commencement of prototyping reached in December last year, it is vital that we see continued growth in the shipbuilding workforce that will employ 15,000 personnel across Australia as part of this government’s $183 billion Naval Shipbuilding Plan.”

Minister Reynolds noted that course graduates also have the skills to work in Defence’s Osborne facility in South Australia.

“They can use their newly gained digital skills to forge a new career path, with more than half being redeployed into engineering, project management and supply chain roles on the Hunter Class Project,” the minister continued.

“The remainder will go into operations roles where they will put their new skills into practice on the shop floor.”

Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge said the digital course has helped ensure Australia retains a skilled and experienced naval shipbuilding workforce.

“The course has allowed Flinders University to deliver skills that are directly relevant to the naval shipbuilding industry, and allowed students to undertake hands-on solutions in their workplace,” Minister Tudge said.

“Less than a year after we launched the diploma, we have the first graduates applying their skills in the workforce.”

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price noted the importance of government collaboration with industry stakeholders to upskill the workforce.

“BAE Systems Maritime Australia has already brought on apprentices who work alongside the 1,000 personnel working on the Hunter project,” Minister Price said. 

“We look forward to seeing many more graduates in the coming years who will assist in building the Hunter project workforce.

“Our Naval Shipbuilding College is also working with Australia’s growing defence industry and education institutions to ensure we have the workforce required for our record investment in defence capability.”

The Diploma of Digital Technology was awarded Training and Mentorship Project of the Year at the 2020 Defence Connect Australian Defence Industry Awards.

Recruitment for 2022 graduate placements will begin in March 2021.

[Related: Defence welcomes new wave of ADFA graduates]

Charbel Kadib

Charbel Kadib

News Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media

Prior to joining the defence and aerospace team in 2020, Charbel was news editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business, where he covered developments in the banking and financial services sector for three years. Charbel has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations, graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in politics and journalism. Charbel has also completed internships with The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts and public relations agency Fifty Acres.

Course graduates bolster Hunter Class workforce
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