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Depth needed in submarine skills.

A year after the Australian Government announced the signing of the AUKUS deal, the Minister for Defence Richard Marles has assured that the nuclear submarine program is taking shape.

What has been made clear is that the Australian Defence Forces are not looking to develop an “Orphan” submarine project, this term referring to a standalone project. Instead, the project will seek to develop a boat used by our AUKUS partners.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute states: “Options include the US Virginia-class and British Astute-class boats. But The Strategist understands that planned new generation of submarines, the American SSN(X) and the British SSN(R), will be considered.”

This policy direction means that the cost of developing the vessels should be shared with the United Kingdom and United States of America, utilising parallel technologies which will ensure cross platform connectivity which is vital in modern sea warfare.

This said the Australian Defence Forces remain committed to “Sovereign Industrial Capability”, ensuring a maximum amount of material be supplied from Australian sources. Indeed, by working with our AUKUS allies the opportunity exists for Australian companies to supply not just the eight Australian vessels but also the subsequent boats our allies will need.

For the specifics of building and maintaining nuclear powered submarines the Australian Defence Department is offering the ‘Nuclear Science and Engineering Undergraduate Scholarship” which is aimed at STEM students who have excelled in their studies and who show promise as nuclear engineers.

Further to this though will be the engineers, machinists, computer programmers, cyber security experts, composite material experts, electronics engineers and the list will go on of well-trained specialists who will be needed to deliver this massive shift in Australian defence policy.

Engagement with industry will be vital to ensure the skills which are being encouraged are the ones in short supply. There is little use having too many computer programmers and not enough machinists.

Education is key in the delivery of the nuclear submarine project, be it University, TAFE, mature age, retraining or additional skilling up of the workforce, all education pathways need to be utilised. Practical experience is also vital in ensuring that those being taught theory can put what they have learned into practice.

The Victorian Defence Industry Scholarships is about ensuring university and diploma level TAFE students gain the practical experience they need to fulfil the roles they will take up in the workforce especially if that business works in the defence supply chain.

Round 4 of the Victorian Defence Industry Scholarships is taking form with students set to take their places in late February 2023. Businesses who are in the defence supply chain eagerly filled Round 4’s quota and students are now applying and going through short listing.

Businesses do not pay the students as a scholarship compensates their time while engaged and host companies benefit from a $4,500 grant to offset expenses like software licences or other ancillary costs. This program is funded by the Victorian Government through the Defence Science Institute.

If your company feeds into the defence supply chain and you want to be kept informed of when Round 5 becomes available, please contact