Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour to open the second National Defence Industry Skilling and Workforce Summit.
While COVID continues to keep us apart – the upside is that we’re all becoming more skilled in online presentations.
The inaugural summit, held in person in Perth in 2019, was a terrific event in building up our stock in skills.
This virtual summit will build on this experience and these achievements.
This time, with the added benefit of allowing attendance from right across Australia.
This is vital. Because our goals in this area are national goals that require teamwork on a national scale.
In the time I have this morning, I’d like to discuss the importance of skilled workers to Australia’s defence industry goals with a particular focus on young people.
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Australia’s defence industry goals are aligned with the major changes in our strategic environment.
We saw this outlined in last year’s Defence Strategic Update.
In line with the strategic challenges facing the nation, the Morrison Government is investing $270 billion dollars in defence capability over the next decade.
The historic scale of this investment provides us with a unique opportunity to build a cutting-edge defence industry in Australia.
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Skilling is central to achieving this.
Exceptional defence capabilities require an exceptional workforce to design, build, and sustain them.
This is why the Morrison Government rates skilling as a top priority.
We are working in partnership with Defence and leading defence companies, supporting upskilling and retraining workers.
You’re seeing this with initiatives such as our Skilling Australia’s Defence Industry Grants Program.
The SADI program, which I launched last September, is providing $39 million for this purpose.
Some 50 businesses are already working to grow their skills base after receiving funding to upskill and train their workforces.
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In 2021, our clear focus is the potential of Australia’s youth to contribute to our nation’s defence industry.
This is not something we can do overnight.
But the foundations of our future success must be laid now.
One of the great parts of my job is getting around Australia to see the fantastic innovation and manufacturing in local defence industry companies.
And I am meeting some of the smartest and most enthusiastic young people you could want to see in your work place.
A couple of weeks ago I met Josephine Delore.
Josephine is a hardware engineer at Lockheed Martin…
Responsible for maintaining and upgrading mechanical and electrical systems on radars.
Josephine graduated from the University of Newcastle in 2015 with a double degree in mechanical and mecha-tronics engineering…
And she worked on freight rail during her undergraduate internship in the mining sector.
When she found her interest turning to aerospace, she applied to Lockheed Martin for a graduate position.
This change in direction led Josephine on an incredible journey.
After starting her work at Lockheed on ground-based radar as a hardware engineer…
She told me that, surprisingly, a lot of the mechanical skills from working in freight rail were transferrable to her Defence work.
Here I want to make this point: a lack of experience is not a roadblock to a successful career in defence industry.
What we see is an opportunity for employers to shape young employees to best-suit their needs.
And we want to make it easier for industry to develop graduates for defence industry jobs.
We can do that by having more Australian students studying subjects aligned with our growing defence industry.
That begins by better communicating with young Australians about the range of skill-sets needed.
And it begins by showing them the diverse range of career paths on offer in defence industry.
Of course, there will always be the challenge of competing with other sectors for Australia’s best talent.
As a Member of Parliament that includes vast and successful mining operations in WA, I know that the competition for skilled labour is hot – and getting hotter.
But that is why early engagement in defence industry can make a big difference.
I wish you well for your discussions today. And I look forward to hearing about the outcomes.