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 unprecedented rate. We’ve seen multiple projects being awarded across sea, land, air, ICT/cyber and space sectors, as well as both primes and SMEs kicking into gear to deliver on Defence capability requirements.
We sat down with defence industry recruitment consultants Pat Horwood, Dawn Newton 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 2022/23.
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. Four or five 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 open to taking 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 three 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.
Want to know more about contracting in the defence industry? Take a look at some of our blogs on contracting.
WHAT SHOULD JOB SEEKERS CONSIDER AS THE DEFENCE INDUSTRY GROWS?
Pat Horwood (PH): The industry is booming. The demand for workers is high and will stay this way for a while. Even historically, the defence industry has experienced fewer ups and downs than others.
There is a lot going on in the industry, and job seekers have more options than ever before when it comes to new job opportunities. However, this feeling of endless opportunities should be approached with caution.
If you’re thinking now is the time to start looking around, the first thing you should do is talk to your current employer. You never know what they might be able to offer you – it might end up being exactly what you’re looking for.
If they can’t offer you what you want, that it is time to start considering your options. We have a really handy blog on the steps you should take if you’re considering a role change in the next six months.
Also worth considering is how your future employers will look upon your experience. If you move every 12 months, that can imply that you’re not a committed employee. An average role tenure of 2-3 years gives a better impression.
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?
PH: Have confidence in what you know! Yes, the defence industry has a very particular way of working, but so does every industry.
Your employer and various industry programs can help you learn the defence industry specific bits, like procedures, processes and acronyms. Here’s a handy starting point: Defence Glossary.
With the current skills shortage some employers are more and more willing to take on workers who don’t have defence experience. Back the abilities that you have, irrespective of what industry you gained them in.
Dawn Newton (DN): Take the time to understand where your skills fit within the industry. Number one, is what you do an in-demand skill set in defence industry? Number two, is there the appetite to hire workers with that skill set from other industries?
Some job families really lend themselves to workers with non-defence industry experience. For example, engineers or analysts that come from rail, manufacturing or federal government industries can integrate relatively easily. Other skills, like business development managers or roles that rely heavily on established networks or product knowledge, well – they can be harder to find if you don’t have defence industry experience.
To learn more about defence industry, take a look at our Defence Industry Insight series here.
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 industry employers. As a contract consultant, I have found that processes are often last minute and my candidates are waiting until the very last second to receive contracts and confirmation that they can start work. 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. 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 workforce trends, download our latest Defence Industry Insights. The Ninth Edition is available to download here.