A day after demanding a national workforce plan for Australia’s increasing defence spend, South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas has secured a joint state and Commonwealth defence industry taskforce to explore the issue for his state, where the shipyard workforce is forecast to triple.
A joint announcement with federal Defence Industry minister Pat Conroy on Friday said the SA Defence Industry Workforce and Skills Taskforce will bring together stakeholders from government, unions, universities, training providers, business and industry.
The taskforce has been established to “ensure defence projects in South Australia will have a highly skilled workforce to draw on” and notes it will be for projects “underway and already planned for”.
The taskforce will be co-chaired by state and Commonwealth officials with costs to be met within existing resources.
On Thursday, Mr Malinauskas used a contribution to the national Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra to call for a Commonwealth partner to help develop a “comprehensive national plan” for the workforce required to support defence projects, including the “mind bogglingly complex” AUKUS submarine program.
AUKUS is not mentioned in the announcement for the SA Defence Industry Workforce and Skills Taskforce, but Life of Type Extension to the Collins Class submarines it will replace is, along with the Hunter Class Frigates.
South Australia’s shipyard workforce is expected to grow from 2,800 to 5,000 by 2027 and to 9,000 by 2037, according to the governments.
The premier said it marked a significant step towards long-term planning for the state’s defence projects.
“Too often, governments focus on the short-term. This joint taskforce is all about ensuring our state is well prepared to seize the long-term opportunities of multiple defence projects which will span generations,” Mr Malinauskas said.
“We have before us an opportunity to secure thousands of well-paid, highly-skilled jobs in South Australia for years and decades to come.”
The taskforce will eventually make recommendations on key defence industry workforce and skilling issues in South Australia.
According to Friday’s announcement this will include:
- Aligning state and Commonwealth strategies to develop the defence industry workforce
- Growing the pipeline of STEM qualified graduates
- Ensuring investment in education and training for the defence industry is targeted to address priority needs, including new models of training
- Transitioning skilled workers from other sectors into the defence industry
- Increasing the participation of women and Indigenous Australians in STEM careers and the defence industry
- Increasing awareness and access to education and training pathways into defence industry careers, with a focus on under-represented cohorts
- Ensuring school leavers are aware of defence industry opportunities and get the skills they need for defence industry jobs
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