The commitment to base the Commonwealth’s largest defence project in South Australia – the 30-year, $50 billion-plus Future Submarine build and maintenance of 12 boats – is a generational game-changer. Construction will start at Osborne in the mid-2020s and the first submarines will be into service in the early 2030s. This will create almost 3000 hi-tech and manufacturing jobs, with around 1700 at Osborne. The winning French bidder, DCNS, has said these jobs will include naval architects, marine engineers, electricians and painters. An estimated 600 supply chain jobs will also be created, along with 500 jobs in combat system integration. The ramping up of shipbuilding projects in South Australia will result in a major expansion of existing facilities.
Real jobs and real people – who are the faces behind the Australian Submarine Corporation in Adelaide?
It proved impossible to keep Debbie Spence away from Adelaide – and ASC. Having started as a 17-year-old, the team-leading fitter has spent her entire working life at the shipbuilder, other than a short period soon after her apprenticeship ended. “It felt like I had never left. I even got my old workbench back,” she says.
Responsible for installing and refurbishing pumps and valves, Ms Spence oversees a team of seven men and one woman. “They’re young, capable, willing, supportive – everything a leader needs. We’ve all got an enormous amount of pride in our work,” she says. “The gender diversity in the industry is a lot better than what it used to be … there’s many more females coming through. Regardless of whether you’re female or male, it’s a great industry.”
Scotland-born Ms Spence has called South Australia home for all but one of her 30 years. “I love it here and I’m not going anywhere,” she says. “When I was at school I never thought I’d end up in the role I am in now. But I was always daddy’s little girl, helping out and getting my hands dirty, so I suppose it makes sense looking back.”
Boilermaker and Welder
The path that led Jack Donaldson to his Australian Submarine Corporation apprentice of the year award can be traced back to his grandfather’s workshed.
From a young age, he spent a lot of time with Graeme, a former BHP boilermaker. Whether it was hands-on help with Do-It-Yourself projects, or listening to stories of working in Woomera, Mr Donaldson could never get enough.
“I was probably more hindering than helping, but that really got me interested in learning how things work and is a large reason I am where I am today,” he says.
Among other things, the 22-year-old, who recently qualified as a boilermaker and welder, regularly works on submarine hulls. Unwilling to just “sit on his hands”, he’s also completed a training and assessment course, is undertaking welding supervision classes, and plans to commence an advanced diploma in leadership and management next year. “What we do at ASC, you wouldn’t be able to experience anywhere else. It’s my everyday work, but I think other people looking in see it as pretty special, or at least they’re very interested in it,” he says.