Lockheed Martin Australia partner with RDA Hunter to create future STEM workforce

Hot off the heels of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter arrival in Willamtown the jet creators, Lockheed Martin, has announced a partnership with Regional Development Australia – Hunter that will build the workforce required to support the new Defence technology.

Speaking at a technology expo for high school students at Fighter World on Thursday, three days after the JSF touched down at the nearby RAAF base, Lockheed Martin Australia’s chief Vince Di Pietro said now was the time to invest in STEM learning initiatives that would create a job-ready industry for the future.

“As home to Australia’s first squadron of highly advanced F-35 fighters and Australia’s largest regional economy, we understand the importance of the Hunter to our wider economic and national security interests,” Mr Di Pietro said.

“We are actively working with RDA Hunter as an industry partner to raise the technology base in this region of Australia and to help develop the innovative Australia technology businesses so that the Australian Defence Force and our future fleet of F-35s remain at the leading edge of technology.”

Lockheed Martin Australia will contribute $60,000 to support initiatives in secondary, vocational and tertiary education that encourages students to take up STEM subjects and pursue industry-related career pathways.

Some of this money will go towards the STEMStart initiative – a partnership between Lockheed Martin, RDA Hunter and TAFE NSW – launched this year.

Starting again in April, STEMStart will train 16 students each year for three years in ICT, cyber security and programming.

Lockheed Martin is also supporting curriculum development of STEM-related University of Newcastle courses.

The project, called Altitude Accord, is aimed at developing a fifth generation workforce to support the company’s future job requirements. According to Lockheed Martin Australia, which has a base at Williamtown, it has 200 jobs to fill by 2020.

Paterson MP Meryl Swanson said this was a “fantastic opportunity” for students in Port Stephens and the Hunter.

“We want our local kids to have the opportunity to fill these roles and initiatives like this are the start in seeing that happen,” Ms Swanson said.

“We’ve have a problem in the area in the past where students who have lived here, grown up here, have to leave if they want a career. This is part of the solution.

“It is incredibly exciting to see these new opportunities for kids and right here in the Hunter.

“I’ve always believed Defence industry was a game-changer for us in this region. This is going to change things for our kids.”

More than 300 students from a number of Port Stephens, Newcastle and Maitland schools turned out to Fighter World at Williamtown on Thursday for the technology expo.

Planes were moved out of the Fighter World hangar to accommodate exhibitors which included Milskil, Varley Group, BAE Systems, Boeing as well as TAFE and University of Newcastle.

Lockheed Martin’s new Future Generation STEM interactive display was popular with students, as was the F-35A simulators.

RDA Hunter chairman John Turner said he was “delighted” to work with Lockheed Martin Australia to provide students with long-term career opportunities in the region.

“Defence projects such as the F-35 deliver significant economic impact to the Hunter, bringing next-generation technology and relate new, high value, skilled jobs,” he said.

“RDA Hunter is delighted to collaborate with Lockheed Martin Australia to help STEM-skilled students in preparation for these roles.”