There are so many incredible areas of technology today to be excited about. From AI to medicinal breakthroughs to scientific developments, where science and technology can take us is a dazzling possibility.
The government is working to realise this possibility despite estimates of a staff shortfall within the technology sector of between 7,000 and 30,000 by 2025. This has been earmarked as a problem for the wider STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workforce.
In recognition of this, The Minister for Industry and Science has committed to expanding the pathways for students into STEM; particularly those from diverse backgrounds that are often underrepresented.
There are many positive signs for the future of Australian science; a post pandemic study revealed that young people are more likely to consider studying STEM subjects as a direct result of COVID. Unfortunately, skills shortages are affecting us right now and it is necessary to consider Australia’s immediate needs.
72.4% of responses to the Defence Industry Skills Survey indicated that they had experienced difficulty in recruiting skilled candidates in the preceding year. The roles most affected by the gap include support services, engineering, program management, design, logistics, and manufacturing.
To address this, the Australian Government has introduced a program of grants as a part of the Defence Industry Skilling and STEM Strategy aimed at improving accessibility for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and to develop the defence sector skills and human resources practices and training plans.
These grants will provide eligible business with between $5,000 to $500,000 over a 6-year period so they can effectively retrain/ upskill staff as well as develop skills within SMEs in the defence sector. To be eligible for these grants, SMEs (those with less than 200 employees) must have some sort of connection to a defence contract, whether that be that they are currently holding one or tendering for one; or that they are a subcontractor to a Defence prime.
These grants represent a mere drop in the pond of a much larger $270 billion investment by the Federal Government to develop a robust defence industry in Australia. Beyond ships and submarines, the investment will stretch across every aspect of the defence industry to ensure its effectiveness and longevity.
In this vein, some of the money will go towards businesses that do not necessarily conduct direct work on behalf on the defence industry but do work to strengthen and support it. This is the purpose of the grants; to keep the businesses that support the defence industry strong so that the defence industry itself can stay strong.
This takes many forms from improved science infrastructure to the upskilling of those within support roles. The benefits of upskilling and ongoing software skills training are easily understood and well publicised; it not only increases confidence and productivity but also endows you with greater security within your role.
In the wake of COVID and the ensuing employment uncertainty, many leaders believe that skill building is the best way to address skills gaps – more than hiring, contracting, or redeploying employees. In fact, the World Economic Forum estimates that around 70% of workers will require reskilling or upskilling by 2025, well over half of the workforce.
Business sponsored upskilling also improved retention rates, welcome news in a tight labour market. It makes employees feel valued and improves the company’s reputation for supporting staff, making it easier to attract and retain quality employees.
In any case, upskilling your employees is a pragmatic way to increase morale and productivity; even more so when the program is funded by grants given by the government. If you are a defence-related SME, the Skilling Australia’s Defence Industry Grants Program could be a game changer for your organisation.