• Skilling South Australia

Charting A New Course

ACCREDITED: Naval Shipbuilding College training solutions manager Nick Howie. Picture: Russell Millard/The Advertiser

Courtesy of The Advertiser.

Significant investment in defence, cyber security, health and the space industries means an increase in demand for skilled workers over the next four decades, with today’s apprentices and trainees placed at the cutting edge of tomorrow’s technology.

As part of the Australian Government’s $90 billion Naval Shipbuilding Program, two offshore patrol vessels, nine frigates and 12 submarines will be built in South Australia in the next 40 years. The Government will also invest more than $1 billion in modern shipyard infrastructure and up to $62 million in workforce growth and skilling initiatives to ensure the success of the program.

One of these initiatives was the launch of the Naval Shipbuilding College in April 2018. The College, based in Osborne, is a joint venture between KBR and Huntington Ingalls Industries, the largest shipbuilding company in the US. It offers a National Workforce Register to connect Australian workers and students with career opportunities, helping to identify the right pathway for each individual.

“We are approaching a significant ramp up in the building of naval vessels. Trade workers will be the highest in demand, particularly boilermakers and welders, then through to electricians, sheet metal workers, fitters and machinists,” says Nick Howie, training solutions manager for the Naval Shipbuilding College.

“It’s also, in the future, going to involve a lot of technological advances – we work on automation, robotics, and potentially programming might roll into it. It is 40 years of work, so who knows what technology will be available at the end of the project.

“When you think about the technological advances of the last 40 years, it could be an opportunity to be right at the cutting edge.”

The College is working with industry, the education system, the current workforce and students to create a skilled workforce to meet the needs of shipbuilders tasked with delivering the Royal Australian Navy’s future fleet.

“It was identified through our needs analysis that welders going into the industry often didn’t have a lot of experience welding in the types of restricted positions that are encountered in the construction of a naval ship,” Howie says. “The Naval Shipbuilding College, in collaboration with ASC and TAFE SA, was able to drive the creation of a ship section mock-up that incorporates restricted position welding and provides an experience more closely aligned to the shipyard environment. TAFE SA has incorporated this mock-up in its welding training and it has been rolled out in TAFE QLD, with other states soon to follow.”

With such strong government and industry investment, Howie says defence is an industry of and for the future. “All across the country, it’s predicted there will be 15,000 new jobs created; around 5000 in direct shipbuilding,” he says.

“Many of those job roles in the small-medium enterprises exist not only in SA but in other states and territories, so it’s a real thriving underbelly of naval shipbuilding that flows right through the community and right through the economy. Students graduating or workers transitioning from other industries can really target those businesses and those jobs of the future.”


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