Holden’s workforce could be redeployed to Naval Shipbuilding project

Photo: ASC Shipbuilding

Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price, has indicated that Defence may be closer to securing the 15,000 jobs needed to tackle national shipbuilding projects, after Defence Department and National Naval Shipbuilding College officials held talks with General Motors’ representatives last week about redeployment opportunities for Holden staff.

Out of the 15,000 construction and supply chain workers needed, only 4000 have been recruited so far, according to the Price speaking to Adelaide’s Radio FiveAA on Monday.

“We’re going to need 15,000 shipbuilders to be able to build the submarines,” Price said.

“But I’m not just interested in the sub(marine) jobs. I’m also interested in people working on the frigate program with BAE and, of course, the Land 400 program, with Rheinmetall based out of Brisbane.”

According to Price, the 2017 Naval Shipbuilding Plan identified that the existing automotive workforce, especially engineers and trade workers like boilermakers, were potential sources of recruitment for the defence industry work.

Once Holden stops operations by 2021, approximately 240 engineering staff, mechanical and electrical, and around 130 design professionals, including industrial designers and those proficient in computer-aided 3D, will be without work.

“Many of these individuals have undertaken similar sort of project-based work for the past 20, 25 years. So, there is significant skill set there,” Price said.

“And we’re not suggesting for one minute that they’ll be able to walk straight into a shipbuilding job. Some of them might be able to but, you know, what we need to identify is where’s that transitional course; perhaps a bit of upskilling so that, indeed, you know, they could actually join, you know, our ambitious shipbuilding program.”

General Motors, together with the Naval Shipbuilding College and the Land Engineering Agency, will map out the skills and the experience of the Holden workforce to see whether there is a match with respect to the shipbuilding jobs, which may indicate the workforce will need to be upskilled.

“I think we need to be honest about it and say well there’s potential there,” Price said.

“As the Defence Industry Minister, I want to make sure I fill those 15,000 jobs. Frankly, I don’t really care where they come from, but we need a skilled workforce and there may need to be further upskilling but that is still to be determined.

“It’s a job for TAFE as well as for universities, because it’s not just blue collar workers, it’s also about engineering, project managers, schedulers, a full raft of the workforce that we’re going to need.”

Those interested in taking part in the shipbuilding program can register on the Naval Shipbuilding College Workforce Register by getting in contact with the National Naval Shipbuilding Office, located in South Australia.