Front­line role has real fire­power

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Rear View -

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.’’

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