It’s been a big year for the Australian defence sector. Investment in defence projects has been ramping up, causing the industry to grow at an almost unprecedented rate, and 2019 was no different. We’ve seen multiple projects being awarded across all four of the sea, land, air, and ICT sectors, as well as both primes and SMEs kicking into gear to deliver on defence capability requirements.
As the end of the year fast approaches, we’re taking a minute to reflect on the year that was, as well as think about the exciting challenges coming up. We sat down with defence recruitment consultants Olivia Agate, Sophie Richards and Tom Butters, as well as our Director & Defence Sector Lead, Rob Kremer, to get an idea of the trends they’re seeing across industry.
Read on for advice from the Kinexus team on what defence sector workers can expect for 2020.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU SEE INDUSTRY FACING AT THE MOMENT?
Rob Kremer (RK): The biggest challenge faced across the industry is access to the right people, with the right skills in the right place and at the right time. The skill shortage is real, and it is only getting worse. There are already skill sets that are nearly impossible to find. The industry needs to find ways to make the most efficient use of the people we do have and find a way to attract and integrate people into the sector to grow the defence workforce as a whole.
Tom Butters (TB): Lack of highly skilled candidates at every level. Even a couple of years ago there was a plentiful supply of candidates for most roles. These days, it is difficult to find skilled people that are tried and tested in the industry, even for roles that are junior or at a lower skill level. Very few companies are willing to take people without defence industry experience. Now that all the highly skilled are employed elsewhere, organisations are looking for people with any defence industry experience, even if they don’t have all the skills they need.
Contractors are a great (largely untapped) resource to defence sector companies. They can come in straight away and add great value to projects and project teams. Whether it is for 3 months or 12 months, contractors have a proven track record of delivering results within defence industry and can be a great solution to the growing skills shortage.
WHAT ARE 3 THINGS JOB SEEKERS SHOULD CONSIDER AS THE DEFENCE INDUSTRY GROWS?
Olivia Agate (OA): The industry is booming at the moment, so longevity is increasing. The demand for workers is high and will stay this way for a while. Even historically, the defence industry has experiences fewer ups and downs than others.
There is a lot going on in the industry, and candidates should assess their options. The industry is bursting with interesting projects, and there are more starting up all the time. To avoid feeling like you have missed out, consider all the options and figure out what you would like to focus on. To find out about what’s going on and upcoming, do research online, stay in touch with your network or speak to a specialist industry recruitment consultant.
Although defence industry isn’t the highest paying industry in the country, it definitely has more than enough perks. The exciting projects, cutting edge tech, increasing investment and fact that you are working towards something larger make the defence industry a great place to be.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE BEST THING ABOUT WORKING IN DEFENCE INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE?
RK: The opportunity it gives Australians to contribute to our security and prosperity, plus work on some really interesting and challenging projects!
WHAT'S YOUR ONE TIP FOR SOMEONE JOINING DEFENCE FROM AN ADJACENT INDUSTRY?
OA: My hot tip is to realise from the start that you have to learn a totally new way of doing things. The defence industry is very different from any other and transitioning workers should come in with the expectation that they will have to learn it from scratch. If you are prepared and ready to accept the change and evolve with it, you will be fine. It’s those that try to fight the change that get frustrated. Aside from the small world, hierarchical nature and different communication strategies, there are completely different markets, procedures, processes and acronyms.
Sophie Richards (SR): Take the time to learn the industry. Defence industry has a way of working and overall will always work that way. Avoid frustration by taking the time to learn how it works and finding a way to make it work for you. The best way to do this is to find a mentor in the industry that will smooth the path. If you can learn the rules and find a way to thrive within the industry, there are some exciting things in store.
HOW DO YOU HOPE THE INDUSTRY CHANGES IN THE FUTURE?
TB: One change I hope to see is a smoother and more streamlined process for candidates looking for work with defence employers. As a contract consultant, I have found that processes are often last minute and my candidates and I are waiting until the very last second to receive contracts and confirmation they can start work, even the next day. In my opinion, this leads to the loss of a lot of great candidates, who move onto another opportunity when they get frustrated, which isn’t ideal in this candidate short market. If the process was smoother and more efficient, there would be a better hiring experience, less frustration and less risk of losing a good candidate.
RK: The industry has been presented with a unique opportunity to contribute to the growth of ADF capability. The current investment will require it to grow significantly, work in different ways and with different people. It is my hope that the industry can become creative and agile enough to recognise, attract and incorporate new people with new skills. Up to this point, things have been business as usual, but as the industry continues to grow and evolve it will need to find new ways of doing things. I hope the industry can rise to the challenge quickly enough to make the most of the exciting opportunities ahead.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON IN THE DEFENCE SECTOR?
For more information on defence sector projects, salaries, and to read our 2019 workforce survey, download the latest edition of Kinexus' Defence Industry Insights.