If you were to ask a person what they do for a living, and they were to reply 'I'm an engineer', there are few other occupations that occupy such a broad spectrum in this day and age. He or she could simply work on car engines, or maybe they're involved in the design of tower blocks and other buildings. Dive a little deeper, and you may find out that they're a defence engineer, meaning that they're a part of some of the most important and difficult projects out there – the defence of our country, or even the entire planet.
The Department of Defence is spending no less than AU$58.7 billion in the years leading up to 2025-26.
It's a hugely exciting sector to be involved with – one that's ever-changing. In this article, we're going to take a look at just what the future holds for defence engineering, and how Interconnect Systems will embrace these developments.
The future of Australia's defence industry
The Department of Defence is spending no less than AU$58.7 billion in the years leading up to 2025-26 – that's almost an extra $30 billion more than was originally planned. Australia will use this not inconsiderate amount of money to cover the cost of equipment, defence salaries, weaponry and upgraded systems. Some $730 million will be spent on new technologies that it is hoped can deliver revolutionary capabilities, which will further bolster Australian defences and national security.
Two key developments are set to be complete in time for 2026, in the shape of the Defence Innovation Hub, informally known as 'the Hub', and the Defence Innovation Portal. The Hub will cost approximately $640 million, and it's designed to house each of the Defence's innovation programs all under one roof.
The idea is to help several defence industries to collaborate far more cohesively than has been previously possible. It's a virtual network, negating the need for extensive travel – the finest engineering minds the country (and world) over will have the ability to work together effortlessly – all the way from initial concept, right through to prototype, testing and entering service.
Defence Innovation Portal is a little different, but just as exciting. Indeed, the Department of Defence says that it will form a key communications bridge between Defence itself, academia and industry. The idea is that this will build solid connections between SMEs and Defence, further galvanising Australia's safeguards against attack.
What about Australia's shipbuilding industry?
As an island nation, Australia has long had a Navy to be proud of. With that in mind, the Department of Defence has outlined its plans for the Australian naval shipbuilding industry right through to 2035, confirming long-term continuous construction of both large warships and smaller vessels.
The Department of Defence has outlined its plans for the Australian naval shipbuilding industry right through to 2035.
Because of this, some 1,000 jobs that may not have been safe before this announcement, are now guaranteed. Additionally, a further 2,500 shipbuilding jobs are confirmed for years to come. This will help keep local sectors in robust health – hospitality and other amenities in particular. It will keep that money within Australia and further boost our economy, and that work will likely go to skilled Australian professionals. Why does that matter? Well, should any mistakes happen at a cheaper overseas construction site – a badly designed bridge, shoddy workmanship on the fo'c'sle – it would cost quite a bit of money to rectify those mistakes.
What challenges does Australia's defence engineering sector face?
Though we've discussed the wealth of jobs that will be available across the defence sector, that doesn't necessarily mean that the country will have the means to adequately fill them with skilled, qualified professionals. What do we mean by that? Well, by examining Engineers Australia's 2019 'Australia's Next Generation of Engineers – University Statistics for Engineers' report, we can see that, while overall placements on Australian engineering courses is growing, the rate of this growth has actually slowed down over the last three years.
It was found that long-term commencements have increased by 4.4 per cent and in 2017, that growth was at 3 per cent. Interestingly, the number of enrolments on engineering courses by overseas students has increased, but domestically, there has been a steady decline in commencement rates since 2013.
So, why is the growth in course commencement still apparent, even if it appears to be in decline? It's largely down to students taken up postgraduate courses, especially by learners overseas. It's true that growth has long been stronger in those studying outside of Australia – an 11.8 per cent increase on that front as opposed to 2.3 per cent for those learning at home.
The bottom line is that, though the Australia defence engineering sector does have a steady stream of fresh graduates to fill these gaps in the workforce, if current trends continue, that flow could slow to a trickle. Without the necessary skilled workers in place, the Department of Defence's grand plans for this sector could come to a grinding halt. It's hoped that the huge injection of cash – and the attendant opening of a wealth of job opportunities – will help rekindle interest in studying for a degree in the industry – only time will tell.
Across the entirety of Australia's engineering workforce, a mere 12 per cent are women.
Women in the workforce
Another article appearing in Engineers Australia states that, across the entirety of Australia's engineering workforce, a mere 12 per cent are women. Chris Neilsen, President of Engineers Australia Queensland, rightly states that this isn't nearly enough of a proportion, for a multitude of reasons. For one, Mr Neilsen says, a more equal gender split has long been associated with better productivity, performance, and the ability to attract and retain top talent, citing facts lifted from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
What's more, Australia is lagging behind much of the rest of the world when it comes to women in engineering. In Europe, some 35 per cent of engineers are women, and in Iran, there is an equal split. If Australia wants to keep its place as one of the world's leaders in defence engineering, this yawning chasm simply has to be narrowed.
At interconnect Systems, we're dedicated to helping Australia keep its place at the very frontier of defence engineering. The quality of our components speak for themselves – be sure to get in touch with us today to find out more.