It’s an exciting time of growth and opportunity for the Australian defence industry; and creating a
skilled workforce to meet the demands of our defence capabilities is high on the list of priorities.
Many of the more immediate needs will be met by workers looking to up-skill or re-skill, or those from other sectors
looking for a complete change of direction. Then of course, there will be skills gaps filled by expertise from overseas
– but what of the long-term sustainability of the Australian defence industry?
The SMEs that make up the defence industry supply chain will be a fixture of the economy, and Australian
communities for generations to come. The long-term sustainability of the industry rests on young Australians. To
create the community of tradespeople and technicians, professionals and ancillary support workers to take it into the
future, the defence industry must tap into the resource of raw talent and enthusiasm that can be found in our schools.
SMEs are a part of the community
The long-term sustainability of the defence industry also rests upon the support of the community and defence
industry SMEs play an important role in their community. They provide work directly as well as indirectly through
ancillary support services, and contribute to the economy in many other ways. Being its greatest beneficiary, the
community will be the defence industry’s most enthusiastic champion.
One of the most valuable assets of a community is its schools. By reaching out to schools, SMEs (no matter what
size), provide opportunities for youth to gain work or experience without having to leave their home, family and
friends. In the past young South Australians have been forced to leave the state to find meaningful work. The growth
of the defence industry will mean that more of our young talent will be able to forge a future in their home state.
There’s fierce competition
The South Australian Government is investing heavily in supporting employers to take on apprentices and trainees.
SMEs in the defence industry will benefit from the talented apprentices, trainees and interns that are born of this
investment – but the competition from other sectors will be fierce. Defence industry SMEs must put themselves at
the forefront of secondary students’ minds to stay ahead of the competition.
Capturing the imagination and winning hearts and minds
The buzz around future industry and innovation does not always trickle down to secondary schools. This is
opportunity wasted at a time when students are eager to explore where they fit in the world and are making subject
choices critical to their future studies and work choices. SMEs need to connect with schools to capture young
people’s imagination and open their eyes to the exciting possibilities of their work future. If that future is to involve an
apprenticeship, a traineeship or a degree that will open the door to the defence industry – students need something
tangible to aspire to, passionate industry mentors to engage them, and a clear path towards their aspirations.
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