Frontline role has real firepower
NOT all engineers with the Defence Materiel Organisation ( DMO) wear uniforms. Nor are students who come through the DMO’s civilian graduate or cadet engineering program obliged to serve for a set period.
According to specialist entry level programs manager, Sarah Lehney, people tend to wrongly assume that all jobs with the Department of Defence are military roles.
What we’re finding when we go to careers fairs is that a lot of people ask if they have to wear a uniform,’’ she says. In their mind, military and civilian are one and the same. They work with the military and around the military, but they are civilians. Really, it’s like working for any other company.’’
The DMO is responsible for the equipment needed to sustain the Defence Force, and manages everything from fuel, boots and ration packs to tanks and bombs.
As most of the equipment is developed externally, the engineering work is not particularly handson - it’s more about overseeing industry and analysing specifications and requirements.
The DMO engineering cadet program, which was introduced last year, is open to engineering students in their final or second- last year of university. Participants receive 65 per cent of the Australian Public Service 1 salary ( currently $ 36,201) while they study. Over the Christmas break, they do a six- week work placement, during which they receive the full salary. Upon completion of their studies, participants feed into the DMO graduate scheme where they rotate through three different areas before choosing their desired position.
There are 10 12 different streams of engineering opportunities available, on anything from small electrical communications projects right up to working on air warfare destroyers.
The big selling point we use is that when they not only do they get paid as they go through uni, but they are also guaranteed a job when they graduate,’’ Ms Lehney says.
Where everyone else has to get a part- time job, the whole idea behind being paid to study is that it frees students up to really concentrate on their studies.’’
Even the current skills shortage has failed to make much of an impact on the demand for places within the cadet and graduate programs.
The intake varies annually - this year, the DMO accepted 48 engineers into its graduate program, and 19 into the cadet scheme.
As a place in either program basically guarantees a job, the application process is rigorous and involves a full day of assessments and interviews. Engineering experts on the interview panel ask the technical questions, but the DMO really looks for people who are motivated, keen to develop their knowledge and would work well in a team.
It’s one job application half way through uni which sets you up for your career,’’ Ms Lehney says. As the DMO is unable to enforce a return of service obligation on civilian workers, they instead use the powers of persuasion.
During the cadetship, we try to foster an environment where they are able to see the benefits of staying,’’ Ms Lehney says. You get a lot of mentoring and a broad overview of the organisation.’’
There are also a range of uniformed roles available for engineering students and graduates within the Defence Force.
In what Defence Force Recruiting squadron leader, Satya Tanner, describes as the best deal you can get,’’ students receive a salary while they study, have their university fees paid for, receive free medical and dental care, a textbook allowance and rental subsidies.
Unlike the civilians, graduates who come through the military program do have a return of service obligation. For each year of sponsored study, they must serve for the equivalent number of years, plus one. And, according to Ms Tanner, they won’t be stuck doing the same job: During a four- year service, they’ll do at least two different jobs.’’