Stronger ADF recruiting required..
Increased recruitment for defence is imperative, as acknowledged by the previous government, which aimed to expand the “whole-of-Defence” workforce to approximately 100,000 personnel. The expansion was emphasized for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to effectively navigate the evolving landscape in the coming decades. The growth in personnel, as outlined by the then Defence minister, was intended to support the development of nuclear-powered submarines, ships, aircraft, and advanced weapons, enhancing capabilities in space, information, and cyber domains.
Despite the recognized necessity for growth, there are consistent reports of challenges hindering the fulfillment of the government’s identified requirements. Prospective recruits often express dissatisfaction with the extensive and laborious application process, which appears more inclined towards eliminating those lacking complete commitment to joining the ADF.
In response to concerns, a Defence spokesperson clarified that the approach to recruitment is aimed at “recruit in, not screen out,” employing diverse methods to enhance candidate success while maintaining entry standards. Nevertheless, feedback from potential recruits frequently highlights the prolonged duration of the application process. Various complaints on platforms like Reddit echo frustrations from current and former applicants and service personnel.
The Defence spokesperson revealed statistics indicating that between January 2018 and January 2023, an annual average of 259 candidates withdrew their ADF application for diverse reasons. Additionally, an average of 19.2% of applicants annually failed to complete their online Job Opportunities Assessment, while 17.8% were withdrawn due to extended non-contact with Defence Force Recruiting (DFR).
Considering these figures, the critical question arises: What is the conversion rate of applicants who successfully commence employment with the ADF? The Defence spokesperson disclosed that as of November 2023, the conversion rate stands at 8.6 to 1 from the pool of applicants to candidates commencing ADF employment.
These insights prompt a deeper exploration of recruitment and attraction strategies, especially in light of public sentiments revealed by a 2022 poll conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs. The poll questioned Australians about their willingness to defend the nation, with 46% expressing a readiness to stay and fight, 28% preferring to leave the country, and 26% remaining unsure. Notably, those inclined to leave were primarily of Middle Eastern descent.
Analysing this data alongside the imperative for the ADF to expand to meet operational requirements presents a stark reality. It also raises questions about the utilization of the existing uniformed workforce within the Australian Defence Force, particularly when compared to the apparent effectiveness of uniformed workforces in regional and global partner nations.