Shortage of 75,000 Workers in Vital Trades, Posing Critical Challenges to Submarine Industry

In a recent release, it was revealed through Freedom of Information statistics obtained by Defence Connect that Australia faces a significant shortfall of 75,000 skilled workers across four crucial trades. These shortages are placing considerable strain on the nation’s submarine industry.

Former independent senator for South Australia, Rex Patrick, sourced the document through a Freedom of Information request, specifically examining the civilian nuclear workforce required to maintain a nuclear reactor plant.

The report highlights the urgent need for additional electricians, construction managers, metal machinists, and welders in Australia’s “feeder workforce,” the pool of workers eligible to pursue careers in the submarine industry. By the financial year 2030–2031, the projections indicate the following requirements:

  • 33,553 additional electricians
  • 19,364 additional construction managers
  • 11,753 additional metal machinists
  • 12,280 additional welders

These figures were determined by calculating the variance between projected demand and the current supply of skilled workers.

Moreover, the document underscores that the actual shortfall could surpass these initial estimates, as they do not include the increased demand expected from the nuclear-powered submarine sector.

The report serves as a wake-up call for policymakers, highlighting the absence of a sufficiently skilled nuclear-powered workforce in Australia to support the construction and maintenance of such submarines. Additionally, there is a lack of an adequate pool of eligible candidates.

While there is a limited pool of individuals with transferable skills, the document notes that foundational qualifications exist within Australia’s domestic feeder pool. However, many essential roles are experiencing national shortages.

Roles such as electronic engineers, engineering managers, and mechanical engineers are also in high demand, with an average supply and demand gap of 125 percent.

The information is derived from the “Nuclear-powered submarine taskforce – initial civilian nuclear workforce study, gap analysis, and supply and demand analysis.”

Furthermore, the decision to construct the SSN-AUKUS at Osborne in South Australia and maintain capabilities in Henderson, Western Australia, may pose additional challenges for Defence.

The research identifies New South Wales as having the largest feeder workforce, followed by Victoria and Queensland, while South Australia faces the greatest skills shortage.

This revelation underscores the critical need for strategic planning and investment to address the impending workforce crisis and ensure the sustainability of Australia’s submarine industry.

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  • Robert Kennedy May 1, 2024   Reply →

    It strikes me that a skills shortage is the least of SA’s worry with the new subs. A far bigger problem is trying to have enough electricity to weld them together, with all of this you beaut renewable power that they profess to have.
    Many years ago in Townsville where we had “plenty” of electric power (Collinsville Power was on line then) I couldnt weld properly at breakfast time… when the stoves and toasters etc. were operating there was not enough power to do the job.
    So, how will they get on with NO baseload power…

  • Robin May 2, 2024   Reply →

    Australian governments need to make a concerted effort to separate those on welfare into three groups: Those fit and intelligent enough to learn and work; those unemployable due to age; those unemployable due to lack of intelligence or genuine mental or other disability conditions.

    A strategy then needs to be formed to case manage those in category one through additional educational support and into trades or other associated tasks eg, trades assistant, stores person etc. Category two needs to be given primary/secondary educational opportunites or traineeships to get them into any type of employment if designated as capable.

    None of us object to those in genuine need in category three being assisted by the increasing amount of tax we are paying.

    I’m an ex-TAFE teacher and training manager, now retired, and would be willing to provide voluntary support to some of the people as I’m sure many retired tradies and others would. Money invested now would decrease the demand for welfare later on (if we stopped importing hundreds of thousands who can’t speak English or contribute).

    Letting people rot on the dole for generations doesn’t do anyone any good.

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