As major Defence projects get under way in South Australia, the priority is creating a skilled workforce – but not at the expense of other industry sectors.
Richard Price, chief executive of Defence SA, said the near-term top priority was making sure that Australia has the workforce to capitalise on the emerging opportunities.
“…looking beyond these first opportunities and seeing what capabilities we need in years to come. And then stepping in where industry has problems that they can't solve,” he said in an interview with Defence Connect.
“But at the same time, we need to be really careful that in supplying our defence workforce and delivering these defence projects we don't rip off the workforce of some of the sectors within the state.”
Price said this was not a matter of just looking after a defence workforce.
It was actually about up skilling the state’s entire workforce so they could move into other industry sectors as market conditions changed.
Defence SA provides top level advice to the SA Premier on policy for growing the state’s defence and space industries. It also supports defence industry.
Future Submarines and the new Hunter Class anti-submarine warfare frigates will be built in SA, as will the first two of the new Offshore Patrol Vessels.
Price said in the short term, SA would need really skilled people to be part of design and engineering programs to stand up these projects.
That would ensure maximum knowledge transfer happens in order to build Australian sovereign capabilities.
“So in these first few years it's really engineers, planners, those sorts of people that are in critical shortage,” he said.
“In the production phases … around 2020-22 onwards, they'll start to really build. That's where we need to bring in the vocationally trained blue-collar workforce and there's time to do that.”
Price said South Australia was building probably the most modern shipyard in the world.
“So the reality is we shouldn't just be looking at how many people are we going to need. We should be asking questions based on what we've done in the past,” he said.
“It's how many people do we need, based on what we can do in the future. How do we get a more productive way of doing work.”
Price said that related to how the shipyard was set up, its machinery as well as the supply chain and the managing bureaucracy.
“So there's lots of opportunities to be very productive in the way we've gone about building these ships,” he said.
“We shouldn't lose sight of how many lessons we've learned on AWD. A tremendous amount of lessons have been learned on AWD and they're going to be embodied into this ship building endeavour going forward.”