Release type: Joint Media Release


Investing in our defence industry workforce for the future


The Hon Richard Marles MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Defence
The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training
The Hon Peter Malinauskas MP
Premier of South Australia

The Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, the Hon Richard Marles MP, and Premier of South Australia, the Hon Peter Malinauskas MP, today released the South Australian Defence Industry Workforce and Skills Report and Action Plan, delivering a detailed strategy to grow and sustain South Australia’s defence industry workforce for the future. 

Through the South Australian Defence Industry Workforce and Skills Taskforce, the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments have engaged with industry, unions, and education and training providers to deliver an integrated workforce and skills plan.

This plan will ensure the necessary support for the delivery of some of the nation’s most complex defence projects, including Australia’s conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines and continuous naval shipbuilding.

These capabilities will only be realised through the strength of a highly educated and highly trained workforce, equipped with cutting edge skills for the future. 

The Report details 22 initiatives to further address workforce challenges and grow the South Australian defence industry workforce from 3,500 direct jobs to more than 8,500 in the 2040s. 

These tangible and solutions-focussed initiatives will: 

  • Engage an estimated 27,000 students and 1,500 teachers in at least 180 South Australian schools to support STEM education pathways for students. 
  • Establish an industry capability pipeline of around 2,600 additional VET and university students through flexible training programs, technical colleges and STEM focused higher-education places. 
  • Employ more apprentices, graduates and undergraduates through the Early Careers Program with more than 70 young Australians to join the program this year.
  • Engage and upskill experienced workers and industry leaders through mid-career transition programs, the Skills and Training Academy and Defence Industry Leadership Program 
  • Improve workforce data and insights across industry and government 
  • Promote defence industry workforce opportunities, and better connect jobs with potential candidates through a multi-tiered communications strategy. 
  • Strengthen STEM evaluations through a consistent methodology and support industry to sponsor security clearances to engage highly-skilled workers from our AUKUS partners.
  • Growing the defence industry workforce in South Australia requires a coordinated and collaborative approach. 

The Commonwealth and South Australian Governments look forward to continuing their close engagement with sector leaders and industry and union partners on this significant undertaking. 

Implementation of the package of initiatives will commence from 2024. 

Quotes attributable to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Richard Marles:

“This report presents a comprehensive and methodical plan to grow, build and sustain the South Australian defence industry workforce, which is critical to delivery of SSN-AUKUS, continuous naval shipbuilding and our other defence projects.

“Some initiatives will leverage and expand on existing programs, building on substantial work already underway across government, defence industry and education and VET sectors. Other initiatives are new to help address identified skills gaps.

“Collaborative and enduring partnerships between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments, defence industry, unions and education and training providers will underpin this critical workforce expansion and capability uplift over time.’’

Quotes attributable to the South Australian Premier, Peter Malinauskas: 

“South Australia will play a leading role in building Australia’s industrial base by building the most complex machines in the world. 

“Our critical national defence projects, inducing nuclear-powered submarines, will be delivered with the strength of a highly educated, highly trained workforce with the cutting edge skills and capabilities of the future.

“The challenge to grow and sustain a highly skilled defence industry workforce cannot be under-stated, but neither can the opportunity.

“The South Australian Defence Industry Workforce and Skills Taskforce has enabled our South Australian and Commonwealth Governments to work together towards a common goal - an agile and highly-skilled local workforce equipped to execute Defence’s most complex national security projects.

“It is my hope the integrated workforce and skills plan for South Australia can be used as a best practice model for workforce expansion across the defence industry nationally.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor:

“Whether it’s in construction, electrical or metal fabrication or a degree apprenticeship in systems engineering, we will need to expand and skill our workforce to deliver and maintain the defence assets necessary for our national security.
“Many of these jobs have, or will have, a VET pathway, and making sure Australians are aware they can access those opportunities through VET is vital.
“We will continue to bring together the tertiary sectors, all levels of government, industry and unions because that’s the only way we’ll get the strong and highly skilled future workforce we need.”