Business Resilience

Learnings From the 2021 Hunter Defence Conference

On 22-23rd April the QMS team was fortunate to attend the 2021 Hunter Defence Conference.

Rowan St Clair
Experienced Strategic Business Development and Account Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the certification, media and sports industries. Skilled in Digital Strategy, Business Relationship Management, Process Improvement & Coaching.

Over the course of two days, we listened to a diverse range of speakers explain the fantastic opportunities for regional suppliers and companies looking to work with the Australian Defence Force. Here is a summary of our takeaways from the conference.

About Hunter Defence

Hunter Defence is a collaborative organisation promoting Hunter industry expertise and capabilities to the NSW and Australia governments with the goal of attracting defence manufacturing, supply and sustainment opportunities to the Hunter region. The organisation includes key stakeholder groups across business, industry, government, education and training and is financially supported by HunterNet, Newcastle Airport, Business Hunter and the NSW Government.

Job Skills of the future

Thanks to its innately innovative and complex nature the defence industry is in constant need of new, highly skilled services. Hunter Defence wants the Hunter region to be a hub for those skills and according to Stuart Ayres, the NSW Minister for Jobs Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, we need to start investing in those skills as early as possible.

Mr Ayres asserted that the defence industry should be engaging with children from the early stages of primary school and throughout their schooling years, educating young Australians on the kind of jobs that are available and the skills needed to fulfil them.

“We have to completely turn around the way we think about skills, the way we think about workforce planning, and have that conversation with students right from the start … right through primary school, into high school and into vocational training.

“The students studying at school today will develop new skills we haven’t yet comprehended and to stay at the leading edge of warfighting capability we want to make sure that the students coming out of our education system are thinking about how they can apply those new skills into future platforms.”

— Stuart Ayres, NSW Minister for Jobs Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney

Regional Development Australia (RDA) Hunter revealed survey data showcasing the Hunter defence industry’s eight most in-demand skills areas:

  • Engineering
  • Design engineering
  • Project management
  • Cybersecurity
  • Software design
  • Electrical engineering
  • Planning and production
  • Integrated logistics

RDA runs an internationally recognised STEM program in Hunter schools.

While engineering topped RDA’s list for defence skills needed in the Hunter, Air Commodore Barbara Courtney, Commander of the Williamtown-based Surveillance and Response Group, told us that cybersecurity is currently the skill most needed in her sector.

We heard from graduates of the Hunter’s STEM program, now working in the defence industry and with Hunter-based SMEs working with the defence industry, showcasing the benefit of the program already at work.

We were also treated to an example of the Hunter region’s current defence expertise with a locally designed and built Next Generation Deployable Facility (NGDF) on display. The mobile aircraft support unit is the result of local ingenuity from Varley Group for Lockheed Martin Australia in collaboration with regional suppliers including ISG and R&R Murphy.

Opportunities for regional suppliers

With the Australian Government projected to spend $270 billion on new and upgraded defence capabilities in the next decade, regional SMEs are expected to win big. A range of defence speakers underlined the capability requirements they’ll need in the coming decade which, coupled with policy changes supporting increased local procurement, will mean defence regions including the Hunter are set to see huge demands for services from the defence industry.

Speakers from the Army, Navy and Air Force, Defence’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, along with Defence Primes Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems and Navantia Australia outlined the scope of planned and potential defence capital works in the Hunter region, including:

$850 million in new construction projects up to 2029

$210million redevelopment of the Singleton Military Area

Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price also announced a funding grant for a ‘Defence Ready’ training series to be delivered by Hunter Defence, designed to help SMEs in the region take advantage of augmented contracting opportunities.

The $430,000 Defence Ready Pilot, will provide vital information and education to help companies become ‘defence ready’ free of charge and will be delivered by Hunter Defence partners Goal Group, Australian Industry Defence Network and HunterNet.

“Regional businesses like those in the Hunter provide crucial support to Defence.

“They are supporting Australia’s security and ensuring our nation can achieve a robust, sovereign defence industry.

“The Defence Ready Pilot is all about helping more local businesses win Defence work.

“It will provide free online workshops to Hunter region businesses to help them understand what it takes to work with Defence, and how to navigate the defence industry landscape.”

— Melissa Price, Defence Industry Minister

This increased investment will also bring new industry jobs to the Hunter region. According to Daryl Martin, Program Manager for F-35A delivery partner Lockheed Martin Australia, since 2017 the company’s Hunter workforce had grown from 25 to 170, with plans to add another 150 employees over the next five years.

Becoming Defence Ready

Great new programs and resources were announced at the conference for businesses interested in becoming a Defence supplier and for those who already work in the defence sector.

Defence Ready Seminar Series

Minister Melissa Price announced a $430,000 funding grant to Hunter Defence Taskforce to deliver a ‘Defence Ready’ industry skilling program designed to help Hunter SMEs take advantage of increased defence contracting opportunities.

Aimed at helping both established and new businesses in the sector, the Defence Ready program intends to help SMEs:

Develop sustainable organisational capabilities and competencies to meet Australian and International Defence Prime Contractor requirements

Overcome identified weaknesses or shortfalls in their capabilities or competencies

Identify when they must meet specific Defence tender requirements that require a credible response

The program is set to be rolled out over the next 14 months and will include 13 modules delivered over three tiers – Explorer, Exponent and Expert.


Hunter Defence Capability Directory

Businesses already supplying goods or specialist services to the defence sector can add themselves to the Hunter Defence’s new Capability Directory, a free service which allows defence suppliers in the Hunter region to showcase their capabilities and grow their business.

Key Takeaways

The QMS team thoroughly enjoyed attending the Hunter Defence Conference and we gained many valuable insights from participating. Our key takeaways from the two-day conference include:

  • Through Defence projects, the Hunter region is set to see opportunities in engineering, design engineering, project management, cybersecurity, software design, electrical engineering, planning and production and integrated logistics in the coming decade
  • STEM and Defence-related education and training needs to start from a young age and continue throughout the schooling process to ensure the Hunter is equipped with skilled workers capable of fulfilling the Defence industry’s requirements
  • SMEs in the Hunter can become Defence industry-ready with free training from the Hunter Defence Taskforce

With the boom in Hunter defence spending and new projects on the horizon, the defence sector needs more expert, trustworthy suppliers than ever. You can get a head start on your Defence Ready training by ensuring your business is up to date on all its required certifications.

Interested? Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you get ahead of the competition.