With confidence sky high and the industry busier than ever, our results show that 24% of the Kinexus 2021 Salary Survey respondents want contract work
Contracting is a great way to get diverse experience on a range of technologies and projects
It’s important to maintain a strong reputation and keep money aside to allow you to take leave
As defence industry gets busier and busier, bolstered by federal investment, an increasing number of workers are beginning to move away from their permanent roles to explore the world of contracting.
With over 100 contractors working for Kinexus nationally, we understand the contracting landscape in defence industry. We know that when an industry experiences rapid expansion, and confidence levels are high, many workers view contracting as an attractive undertaking.
Indeed, when in April 2021 we asked the defence industry, ‘what is your preferred method of employment?’ we were not surprised to find 24% of the population either wanted contract work, or didn’t have a preference between contract and permanent.
With this in mind, we decided to ask some of our defence industry contractors what attracted them to contract work, what the opportunities and challenges are and what advice they would give budding contractors.
The contractors we asked ranged from having 1 years’ experience in contract roles to 20, and came from a variety of different professional backgrounds including engineering, logistics and ICT. Those whom we asked also had a variety of professional histories; some had experience working in other industries, whilst some had worked above and below the line, including in the APS.
Why did you initially choose to take on contract work?
I wanted more flexibility with my work arrangements, including the option to work longer hours if I wanted.
I liked the variety contract work offered, both in the programs I could work on and the skills I could use. I enjoy the challenge this variety brings, and being exposed to different projects and technology keeps me employable.
I was attracted to the additional earning capacity in contracting.
What attracted you to contracting in defence industry?
I was already working in defence industry (in the APS) before becoming a contractor.
In my experience, Defence is much more focused on work-life balance. I am rarely asked to work more than 40 hours a week, and all of my clients have been extremely understanding in supporting personal circumstances.
There is such an extensive choice of programs and roles.
I am attracted to work in the defence industry because it offers many of the qualities I look for in employment; comradery to meet objectives, solving complex problems, working with the latest technology and contributing to the defence of our nation.
What opportunities do you think contracting in defence industry offers over permanent employment?
Defence industry is so busy at the moment with so many new acquisition projects underway. With all this work in the pipeline, it’s easier to get access to interesting work… with no company politics.
As an employee, your career and career opportunities are often defined by how successful your employer is at winning work. As a contractor, you are free to pursue any roles you like! You are judged on your own merit, not on the performance of a large corporation.
In defence industry, the customer (the Commonwealth of Australia) really respects and appreciates when you deliver a project or service. It’s really fulfilling.
Do you think that there are any challenges in contract work, as opposed to permanent?
Often contractors are sourced when a program comes under pressure and the challenge is to correct the problems. This means you might walk into a pressurised environment where everyone is focused on one thing: getting the program back on track.
As a contractor, you do not have any leave entitlements and there will be periods between contracts without income. It’s important to factor in a fair remuneration to reflect the risks of being an independent contractor, and build a cash buffer so you can afford to take time off.
Contract extensions can be challenging! I have worked on multiple contracts where clients have verbally agreed to extensions, but the delay in contract drafting and approvals always results in a mad scramble by the client in your final week.
Not really! Contracting is great.
What advice would you give to someone working in defence industry who is considering making the switch from permanent to contract work?
Being a contractor isn’t that much different to being in the APS because you still work in project teams. There’s not much to worry about.
Ensure you have an in-demand skill set, and that you’re good at what you do. You’ll need to make a name for yourself so you become the contractor that everybody wants.
Speak to an associate who is already a contractor, someone who you can ask questions of and who can offer advice.
You will need to prove yourself with every new role and be flexible to work in various and sometimes-difficult environments…Hint: Beware the jobs advertised with “must have a good sense of humour.”
There isn’t a better time to do it than now. With the current demand for contractors within the defence sector, there is little to no risk of not finding work.
So there you have it! Real life advice from real life contractors.
If this has got you interested, reach out to your closest office and we can put you in touch with a contract expert at Kinexus. We also have a great eBook on the subject which will tell you all you need to know.
For even more advice on contracting in defence industry, check out our previous blogs: