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Babcock presents plan to grow local shipbuilding amid skills shortage

Successfully meeting the growing demand for skilled workers at the company’s Rosyth shipyard, Babcock’s Production Support Operative pathway has been critical to the success of the Royal Navy’s Type 31 frigate program.

Successfully meeting the growing demand for skilled workers at the company’s Rosyth shipyard, Babcock’s Production Support Operative pathway has been critical to the success of the Royal Navy’s Type 31 frigate program.

Babcock showcased its innovative solutions to addressing skills shortages to reporters in Scotland recently, revealing how the company has increased its Rosyth-based shipbuilding workforce by opening new career pathways for non-skilled or partially skilled workers.

Rosyth shipyard is the home of the Royal Navy’s future Arrowhead Type 31 frigate and one of the United Kingdom’s nuclear submarine decommissioning sites. Both are Babcock-led projects.

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Speaking to reporters, Babcock spokespeople explained that Production Support Operative (PSO) candidates are first assessed on characteristics such as attitude and teamwork rather than qualifications, broadening the company’s potential talent pool. They also said that an initiative like this could be easily replicated in Australia to support the critical upskilling required for continuous shipbuilding and AUKUS.

The global shipbuilder provides training and certifications to successful candidates, upskilling and enabling them to work with qualified tradespeople on shipbuilding and decommissioning programs.

The PSOs are offered ongoing training throughout their career in fields such as design and project health.

The mix of skills gained from the ongoing training also facilitates the rapid deployment of PSOs to plug capability gaps in priority projects as they arise.

The training package is fundamental to Babcock’s shipbuilding program, ensuring that the global shipbuilder is able to deliver capabilities for the Royal Navy’s frigate and nuclear decommissioning programs for up to 20 hours a day, seven days a week.

The search for innovative shipbuilding solutions follows recommendations raised in the 2023 Defence Strategic Review, highlighting the need for Australia to increase its industrial shipbuilding base.

Babcock spokesperson Natasha Allan, head of sustainability for marine, told journalists in Rosyth that the growing workforce freed up tradespeople to focus on key tasks.

“What we looked at is how we can best utilise our tradespersons.

“Even if it’s preparing areas, preparing tooling and equipment or supporting work permits. It’s a general tasking that’s not requiring an apprenticeship.”

PSO workers interested in continuing their career in shipbuilding can also be offered the opportunity to undertake an apprenticeship with Babcock.

The program was developed in consultation between Babcock, the local government, and trade unions to find a solution to the ongoing skilled worker shortage that has hampered the British shipbuilding industry.

The program has been welcomed by jobseekers and those interested in finding work in the shipbuilding industry alike. Just 10 months after the first cohort commenced the program, Babcock received 500 applications for employment within the PSO pathway.

Babcock has employed a total of 169 PSOs to date.

Defence Connect had the opportunity to speak to program participants Stephanie Wallace, 47, and Paul McLelland, 53, who praised the initiative.

Wallace, a former cleaner at the site told reporters that it was an opportunity to enter the shipbuilding industry, despite concerns that she might not possess the required qualifications.

A former baker, McLelland joined the program following time out of the workforce as a full-time carer.

The program forms just one pillar of the international shipbuilder’s push to retrain and retain staff.

While Babcock has developed plans to attract older recruits from outside the shipbuilding industry, the global shipbuilder and sustainment provider has continued to develop its graduate and apprenticeships schemes to nurture the British shipbuilding trades workforce.

Emily Taylor, 24, a higher-level mechanical engineering apprentice described working on Babcock’s warships program as inspiring and encouraged young people to consider a pathway into shipbuilding.

“I personally wanted an industry that made me feel proud.

“It is contributing to national security, and we are also helping out other nations with humanitarian aid.

“That will inspire people because it’s about helping as well as defending.”

Liam Garman

Liam Garman

Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media

Liam began his career as a speech writer at New South Wales Parliament before working for world leading campaigns and research agencies in Sydney and Auckland. Throughout his career, Liam has managed and executed international media and communications campaigns spanning politics, business, industrial relations and infrastructure. He’s since shifted his attention to researching and writing extensively on geopolitics and defence. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Sydney and a Masters in Strategy and Security with Excellence from UNSW Canberra, with a thesis on post-truth, postmodernism and disinformation operations.
 
Reach out to Liam via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via LinkedIn
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