Universities Australia has outlined how universities can work with Defence to increase the flow of skilled workers desperately needed to boost capability and keep our nation safe and secure.
Skill shortages are plaguing many areas of our defence force, defence industries and complementary sectors, with the shortfall of cybersecurity professionals alone tipped to hit up to 30,000 unfilled positions over the next four years.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said universities backed moves that would support them to educate more of the skilled workers our nation’s defence relies on.
“Defence is not immune to the skills crisis rippling through our economy,” Ms Jackson said.
“This is particularly troubling right now because at a time when Australia is facing heightened security risks, the skilled workers who can prepare and protect us are increasingly hard to come by.
“This is about much more than boots on the ground – defence goes far beyond that.
“We are in desperate need of additional engineers, intelligence officers and cyber professionals who can make good on the government’s increased investment in defence capability.
“Without a full and skilled workforce, we will continue to see project delays and gaps in our nation’s defence, putting us at greater risk of harm.
“We look forward to continuing to work with government and industry to support the ongoing and crucial work of universities in boosting our nation’s defence and keeping Australia and Australians safe and secure.”
Our proposals to address the workforce challenges facing Defence include:
- exploring new ways to financially support students to study in areas of Defence need
- offering students from a range of disciplines a taste-test of a Defence career through a broader range of internships and work integrated learning experiences
- reconsidering the eligibility requirements for Defence internships
- making it easier for non-university-educated workers to transition to university study in areas of Defence need, and
- boosting research partnerships between Defence and regional universities.
Ms Jackson said universities and Defence already had a close working relationship, but now was the time to up the ante for the benefit and safety of our nation and our allies.
“Universities have long undertaken research and development in many areas pertinent to Defence, including cyber security, artificial intelligence and quantum technologies,” Ms Jackson said.
“This work is also central to building our defence capability and it is done by university-educated workers across all the disciplines – in STEM, humanities and social sciences.
“The success of security pacts like the AUKUS and Quad arrangements hinge on the capacity of these researchers and highly skilled workers.
“Universities also play a fundamental role – through research or otherwise – in building understanding between nations and developing relationships, which is so important to regional stability.
“In a changing global environment, we need more of what universities offer, not less. Our sector is here to help and there is no time to waste.”
Read Universities Australia’s full submission to the Defence Strategic Review 2022.