In the July-August edition of Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, QinetiQ Australia Managing Director, Greg Barsby discusses Defence Industry contributions to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) sector in Australia.
As a global science and engineering company it is vitally important for us to have a strong STEM talent pipeline for the future. We are a significant employer of scientists, engineers and technology professionals, so inspiring the next generation to consider STEM careers is a priority for us, globally.
In Australia, 80% of our workforce have a background in STEM. From aerospace engineers supporting the Defence Aviation Safety Authority with structural integrity advice, to the mechanical, electrical and electronic engineers who work alongside Defence Science and Technology Group at their workshops at Fishermans Bend to the systems and software engineers supporting capability development projects for other agencies across Defence; we employ engineers from more than a dozen disciplines across Australia.
And that’s just engineering, we also employ a wide range of STEM experts within our advisory business in roles such as security, cost estimation and integrated logistics support.
Here at QinetiQ we see the value in forging strong partnerships with universities to support the development of STEM students; providing them with pathways for higher learning, internships, industry interaction, mentoring, engagement and employment.
In Australia we do this in a number of ways:
From December through to February each year we offer a 12 week paid internship program for STEM students in their penultimate year, providing them with valuable on-the-job experience. We’ve found that more than 40% of our interns stay on in casual employment for their final year of study and 50% of our engineering graduate positions are filled by former interns.
Through our graduate program we provide students with entry into the workforce while building their skills and knowledge of how to apply their university learning in a corporate environment.
We also provide students with access to our inspiring technical leaders through project sponsorship and student mentoring programs. In South Australia a team of QinetiQ engineers and project managers are currently working with a fourth year engineering team from the University of Adelaide to provide guidance on their honours year project. From test and evaluation methods, to structural design and all the way through to manufacture, we are supporting the team to design and build a vertical take-off and landing prototype aircraft.
In another example, we are mentoring a team of University of Melbourne masters students to design, implement and test a control algorithm for a distributed fleet of autonomous vehicles.
By collaborating with universities we are providing students with the valuable experience required to be job-ready once they complete their degrees, as well as exposing them to the many and varied roles available to them within the defence industry.
Globally, we are committed to a comprehensive STEM outreach program that involves inspiring school students to consider STEM study for their higher education, collaborations with universities as well as involvement in a number of STEM competitions and site visits.
We manage and operate a number of world-class test and evaluation facilities across the globe and host a number of STEM activities at these sites each year, such as the schools powerboat challenge at the Ocean Basin within Haslar Marine Technology Park. Last year we were pleased to host an energetic team of year five and six students from Adelaide to present their winning design from the Re-Engineering Australia Subs In Schools competition to our technical experts at Haslar.
As we continue to modernise as an industry and grow as a nation, I am particularly passionate about supporting greater diversity within our STEM fields and the industry in general.
We are proud of the steps we have been taking to improve the gender diversity of our workforce. We recently implemented an industry leading parental leave policy that provides up to 16 weeks paid leave for primary carers (regardless of gender) with no minimum qualifying period. I’ve taken a personal pledge as a Workplace Gender Equity Pay Equality Ambassador to make sure we right any inequalities in pay based on gender. And most recently, our employee-led diversity and inclusion committee launched our latest strategy, setting an ambitious target of 25% female participation in our STEM workforce by 2024.
We are reshaping the way we attract and retain women in STEM careers and providing more support to grow talented females within our business into leadership positions.
Internally, we foster and grow our STEM talent by providing employees with individual annual professional development allocation to further their skills and development, providing access to a leading online business school and learning resources, supporting our engineers in regular competency assessments and providing opportunities for employees to gain experience through internally funded research and development projects.
We recognise that no two career paths are the same and provide all employees with the tools, resources and guidance to map the career that suits them. As well as the more traditional path up the management chain we also have a global network of Technical Fellows who are leaders in technical and research fields and are supported by the company to engage in research and academia.
The modernisation of Australia’s defence capability, and the industry that supports it, requires a strong focus on skilling for the future. The future will only see more and more reliance on STEM expertise and so it is great to see the government and industry support behind this.
We are proud of our deep science and engineering roots and look forward to continuing to support the Australian Defence Force by providing deep technical expertise to solve complex problems, now and into the future.