The federal government’s Naval Shipbuilding College is finally set to commence operations, under the leadership of a joint venture between KBR and Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII).
The joint venture, known as the Naval Shipbuilding Institute (NSI), beat out a bid from Babcock. The college headquarters will be based at Osborne in South Australia and will provide a national hub for the management, implementation and collaboration between key stakeholders, along with delivery of naval shipbuilding career awareness programs.
NSI will establish and manage the college, which has been established to meet both the immediate and future skilled workforce requirements necessary to successfully deliver the planned $90 billion naval shipbuilding program.
The NSI will work with shipbuilders to understand their workforce requirements throughout the different stages of project construction and sustainment, while leveraging a national network of education and training providers to deliver the specific skills required.
Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne said the NSI team represents over 200 years of commercial experience in naval shipbuilding education and skilling.
"The NSI team has a proven track record of developing shipbuilders and will bring to Australia their collective experience in naval shipbuilding skilling and education," Minister Pyne said.
"The Naval Shipbuilding College will collaborate with key education and industry providers to ensure Australia can increase the size and skill level of the naval shipbuilding and sustainment workforce we need."
Minister Pyne said the government is anticipating by the mid-2020s the outfitting workforce – electricians, joiners and carpenters – will need to grow by over 1,400 people, while the structural workforce – boilermakers, structural workers and steelworkers – will need to grow by more than 1,000 people and management staff by over 300.
"More than 25,000 personnel will be needed directly or indirectly for the government’s $90 billion commitment to a continuous shipbuilding program," he said.
"The naval shipbuilding workforce in Australia is likely to grow to around 5,200 workers by the mid‑2020s, across a range of diverse job roles."
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The NSI has already sought expertise from Australian industry, including the Defence Industry Education and Skills Consortium (DIESC).
The Defence Industry Education and Skills Consortium (DIESC), which is made up of the Defence Teaming Centre, the University of Adelaide, the University of South Australia, Flinders University, RMIT University, Edith Cowan University, TAFE SA, South Metropolitan TAFE and the Indigenous Defence Consortium, said it is encouraged by NSI's engagement with industry.
"We are pleased to see that KBR and HII have sought Australian expertise from the DIESC," said DIESC spokesperson and Defence Teaming Centre CEO Margot Forster. "This is essential to ensure we have a strong and sovereign education platform from which to develop shipbuilding careers for many generations to come.
"The college will become a critical interface between naval industry and education. The approval by the Commonwealth government to invest $90 billion into new naval fleets and submarines will see a huge requirement for specialised skilled personnel in the future. The development of a Naval Shipbuilding College is a significant step towards filling a future need in the defence industry’s rapidly changing and expanding workforce."
The college was originally scheduled to commence operations on 1 January this year, but the federal government said the recent troubles at TAFE SA prompted the delay of the college opening.
"The Naval Shipbuilding College is going ahead as planned. Unfortunately, SA Labor's TAFE scandal has delayed the announcement of the successful tenderer until we are satisfied TAFE can deliver the courses we require," Minister Pyne said in January this year.
The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) handed down an audit in early December last year, which blocked students from enrolling in 14 courses because of poor standards.
However, former SA defence and space industries minister Martin Hamilton-Smith rejected these claims, noting none of the courses that were blocking future enrolments relate to shipbuilding.
"Issues identified at TAFE related to courses such as hairdressing, abattoir work and aged care. We don’t employ those categories at the shipyard. No TAFE courses relating to shipbuilding failed audits," he said on Twitter.