SA calls for defence skills taskforce

·2-min read

The South Australian government is urging the federal government to boost investment in shipbuilder training to meet the demand of future defence projects.

Premier Peter Malinauskas has called for a joint state and federal defence jobs and skills taskforce to be established at the skills summit in Canberra.

According to the SA government, demand for shipbuilders in the state will rise from 2800 this year to 9000 by 2037.

Mr Malinauskas said it was vital SA had the workforce and skills to deliver on major defence projects under way, and to capitalise on opportunities with the next generation of maritime capability, including Australia's nuclear submarine fleet.

"The biggest risk to these projects and maximising local content is access to skills," the premier said.

"We must be honest about the challenge this represents and start to take action to address it."

The proposed taskforce would advise governments on how to prepare the defence manufacturing industry so the workforce is able to meet construction demand over the coming decades.

As well as increased investment in education and training, the taskforce would recommend luring skilled workers from other industries into defence.

It would also focus on including under-represented groups, with a key recommendation to increase opportunities for women and Indigenous Australians in STEM and defence careers.

The nuclear submarine program is the biggest infrastructure project ever built in Australia, Mr Malinauskas said.

"The decisions we make now will pay dividends in years and decades to come," he said.

Demand for shipbuilders will be under increased strain from major projects, including construction of the Hunter class frigate fleet and a life-of-type extension for the existing Collins class submarines.

Mr Malinauskas urged state and federal governments to get on board with the taskforce to prevent future worker shortages that could jeopardise defence manufacturing projects.

"Meeting the growing needs of our defence industry workforce by upskilling new workers is now a priority, not just for our local economy but also our nation's defence," he said.

As well as state and federal government agencies, the taskforce would seek to involve unions, universities, training providers, businesses and industry bodies in upskilling the workforce.