The design, acquisition and maintenance of nuclear-powered attack submarines (naval designation SSN) will not just require a new cohort of skilled workers, it will require the nation’s skills training sector to develop unique expertise to deliver specialist training. That’s the considered view of the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA), the peak body representing independent providers in the skills training, higher education, and international education sectors.

ITECA notes that the capability of the entire skills training sector, including independent Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and public TAFE colleges, will be required for the three major stages of the SSN program. These stages are building new naval shipyards, acquiring Virginia-class SSNs from America, and finally building the SSN-AUKUS class submarines.

The first stage, naval shipyard construction, is a conventional skills challenge, according to ITECA.

“The Australian Government estimates that some 4,000 workers will be needed simply to design and build the submarine construction yard in Osborne, South Australia.  In many respects, ensuring the availability of a skilled workforce to support that aspect of the SSN project is the easiest part,” said Troy Williams, ITECA Chief Executive.

The second stage, developing a workforce to support the Virginia-class SSNs is more challenging, according to ITECA.  It will require RTOs to employ trainers and assessors with expertise that the skills training system doesn’t currently have.

“The acquisition of the Virginia-class SSNs will mark a major shift for many independent RTOs.  These RTOs will need a new cohort of trainers and assessors who thoroughly understand SSN submarines’ complex systems and components.  This is a capability the nation’s skills training system does not presently have,” Mr Williams said.

ITECA notes that the ongoing operational readiness of the SSN fleet will depend on the ability of the nation’s skills training sector to develop a workforce with the requisite maintenance expertise.

“US reports on SSN submarine maintenance delays commonly reference a shortage of workers with the requisite skills and experience.  In that context, Australia needs a long-term SSN maintenance workforce strategy that harnesses the capabilities of both independent and public skills training providers.  Importantly, the strategy needs to look at developing the skills training sector’s workforce,” Mr Williams said.

The third phase of Australia’s nuclear submarine program to support the design and construction of the SSN-AUKUS submarine fleet will be a game changer for the skills training sector, according to ITECA.

“Around 4,000 to 5,500 shipyard jobs will be required at the peak of the SSN-AUKUS construction program, requiring a workforce with skills not found domestically.  Addressing that skills gap will require RTOs to hire trainers and assessors with specialist expertise, and that’s going to be a challenge,” Mr Williams said.

The Australian Government’s SSN program needs to look at the skills training sector’s capabilities, ITECA says.

“The Australian Government is currently preparing a blueprint for the skills training workforce, and this review needs to have scope to consider what specialist trainers and assessors are required to support the SSN program.  That’s the advice that ITECA has given the Australian Government,” Mr Williams said.

Government data referenced in the ITECA State Of The Sector report highlights that it is independent RTOs that support more than 87% of the 4.3 million students in skills training, including some 71% of Diploma (and higher) student enrolments, 69% of Certificate IV student enrolments and more than half of all apprentices and trainees.

“Australia’s independent RTOs do the heavy lifting in delivering higher level and complex qualifications in the skills training sector.  These providers will be critical to the success of Australia’s SSN capability,” Mr Williams said.


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  1. It will take years to find and train up staff to do any of the jobs to the required to meet the standards.

  2. So, you see what leaving to the Public Servants to stew on it for eighteen months did for Australia!

    Problem was very simple and could have started last year with the first boat in the water in 2024 for sea trials!

    Trouble is that no matter how many “little brains” are used in committee, it can never equal one large brain that can take in the encompassing picture and offer cheap/quick solutions!

    These phantoms will never be ready for war with China in 2027! Just a political pipe dream that will never surface in time to defend the country!

    Useless pretenders are running the country! I would imagine that ALL of the current pollies are just “Presenters” of Public Servant (their masters if you follow “Yes Minister”) mutterings. So this “Public Servant” report was commissioned by the Liberals and now is parroted by the Laborites!

    They could take a leaf out of Austal US who are contracting to make sections of these subs right at this moment, but NOOOOO!

    As for the nuclear propulsion, that is what we have ANSTO for!

    Ah, children at work, simply children who should be in Day Care at work!

  3. Well the only one question isn’t welders or price or whatever than opening the pandora box with 8 nuke bombs sold to Aussies? yes because HEU Reactor a slow bombs fusers, would Aussies, UK US takes this precedent into account now or only when Iran, Pakistan, etc.. Islamic or other dictatureship states will operate their brand new Russian HEU subs next to thier costs?

    AIEA don’t watch at military devices, its a loophole , Russian or China can develop any heu and would sale well around the world if this irrational affair is done! this balance was imposed long ago, if the US UK breaks it, the future will not be saffer , take to account that it takes only 10 days to remove HEU from a reactor and make a nuke bomb!


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