Opening doors to open minds to engineering
Whilst globally governments are prioritising science, technology, education and mathematics (STEM) education to ensure the engineering and technical jobs of the next decade can be filled; inspiring students to choose that path is another issue. Its imperative technology organisations can continue recruiting fresh talent as we continue to grow.
Yesterday, Saab Australia opened the doors to five of South Australia's highest achieving high schools, to show them the technology we're developing in State.
As managing director, Andy Keough welcomed them, he spoke about the unique systems being produced in their home town; how the business is expanding and how we need engaged young minds to recruit well into the future.
"Jobs in the last few years have been overtaken by technology, robots are coming in taking over people's jobs and that process will continue, it will gather speed. Therefore you'll need skills and continue to train when you finish school, go on to university, and when you enter the workforce.
"Whatever industry you go into, technology will continue to change, improve and in many cases disrupt the industries you enter. So keeping abreast of technology, understanding where it's going will help your future career," said Andy Keough.
Charlie Rocklyn, software engineer challenged the students to think of how programing is creeping into all facets of life. In the café where they were seated she pointed to the coffee machine and how the interface and programing was all done by a software engineer.
"I felt like the tour definitely helped the students in the process of bridging the disconnect between what they are currently studying and what work they might eventually do. I distinctly remember have a poor understanding when I was at high school of what work would actually look like", said Charlie.
Yesterday's visit was organised by Saab Australia graduate engineer, Will Daniels who coordinates the organisations' involvement in the national 'Subs In Schools' program.
"This was an opportunity I didn't have going through school and I put myself in their shoes now, if I was in year 10 and came to a facility like this, I would have loved it. One student described it best; 'it's like being in a games arcade but I've got no coins'," he said.
A group of fellow Saab Australia graduate engineers joined Will taking students through the facility, fielding questions and sharing personal stories of their own study paths.
Graduate engineer Daniel Stone attended a Saab school tour in years 10 and 12 and said these visits opened his eyes to a defence career. "I noticed quite a few similarities with our tour today, except the demos were a bit more captivating as we now have a flashier OneView and HoloLens demo to show," he said.
Maritime (9LV) software integration team leader Grant King, showed the students the combat system integration work Saab Australia leads from the Adelaide facility. "A student asked me what the system might look like in 100 years and I challenged him to think of the changes we've seen over the last 100 years and how things are getting more networked.
"Having crews at sea is expensive and requires larger ships. I think they could see it will be totally different and we touched on that. It won't just be engineering making that progression, but a hand-in-hand thing with Navy, as some things like not having crews at sea require a dramatic mind-shift for everyone," said Grant King.
"I definitely think we inspired lots of students today by showing them how exciting engineering is. Judging from my tour group I'd say at least ninety percent were focused and actively listening the entire time. And I'd say sixty percent were inspired to discover more about STEM fields," said graduate engineer Isaac Taylor.
Daniel Penn is a software team leader in the civil solutions business. He showed the students the technology that's safeguarding some of Australia's largest prisons and hospitals.
"I think the majority of students were interested in the technology and what we do and it was interesting to see how much influence the Subs in Schools program is having. I had some good questions about how our projects work," he said.
Brighton Secondary School design and technology co-ordinator Andrew Hudson said "it's been fantastic, the kids have come away totally engrossed and really excited — abuzz with opportunities they've just heard about … different computer systems, engineering roles, developing software apps," he said.
"There are career paths the kids haven't even thought about … when you hear 'Defence', you think soldiers but there is this whole other scope when it comes to technology and security".
As of October last year, Saab Australia's numbers have increased from 350 to 420 employees, that's an increase of around twenty percent. Additionally there are 45 applications waiting to be filled as the business enters a significant growth stage to meet the pipeline of Navy projects and the businesses' growing security work.
Judging by the questions and interaction with our engineers, this was an encouraging result for continuing to grow Saab Australia's future workforce.