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Overview

This page provides information and data on the Defence sector, which is one component of the Corrections and Public Safety industry.

It is important to note that only a small number of enrolments and completions in the Defence sector are reported for operational and security reasons. The information on this page is therefore focused on general skills needs and information, as the number of students reported yearly is not representative of the training being undertaken within the sector.

The Defence sector is primarily composed of those serving in the Australian Defence Force, though it may include civilian roles and contractors. The Australian Defence Force operates to defend and protect Australia, and includes the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Airforce and the Royal Australian Navy.

Vocational education is available for occupations involved in:

  • The manufacture, storage, distribution and use of explosives
  • Defence-related mechanical repairs and maintenance
  • Combat system operations
  • Sensor operations
  • Electronic forensics
  • Simulator maintenance
  • Range control (for land, sea and air)
  • Defence management
  • Defence work health and safety
  • Pastoral care chaplaincy.

Nationally recognised training for Defence is delivered under the DEF – Defence Training Package, which is within the Scope of Registration for 36 Registered Training Organisations.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment levels in the Defence sector have varied since 2001, with a low of about 17,800 in 2002 and a peak of around 34,300 in 2012. Employment levels in 2021 were approximately 29,000, and projections indicate employment will remain relatively stable to 2025. Top VET related occupations in the Defence sector are generally projected to have little to no increase in employment levels until 2025, with the exception being General Clerks which is expected to grow by 13%.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Limited training information is available because only a small number of enrolments and completions in the Defence sector are reported for operational and security reasons. The information presented above details those enrolments and completions that were nationally reported.

Although the program enrolments and completions that were reported in the Defence sector have declined overall between 2016 and 2020, slight increases have been recorded between 2018 and 2019. Enrolments increased from around 330 in 2018 to 350 in 2019, however have declined to around 280 in 2020. Completions increased from a low of approximately 100 in 2018 to around 115 in 2019 and remained at a similar level in 2020. The proportion of subject only enrolments that were delivered as part of a nationally recognised program has increased overall, from 58% in 2016 to 76% in 2020.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

According to the Public Safety IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, the top priority skills for the Public Safety industry include:

  • Health/safety
  • Search and rescue
  • Emergency response
  • Fire fighting
  • Community engagement

In addition, the top generic skills for the industry were identified as:

  • Managerial / leadership
  • Communication / virtual collaboration / social intelligence
  • Technology
  • Design mindset / thinking critically / system thinking / solving problems
  • Language, literacy and numeracy (LLN)

According to the Public Safety IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast Australia’s Defence industry faces some key challenges and opportunities which it needs to be prepared for, including:

  • Increasing financial pressures and an economy that is transitioning from resource and commodities based to one that is technologically and innovation-based has meant less money in training budgets across public safety agencies, which in turn affects the type and method, of training delivery. As a result, online training and testing, and the use of workplace training simulations, is becoming increasingly common among public safety agencies.
  • Although the prospect of a military attack by another nation on Australian territory is remote, Australia’s national defence strategic outlook to 2035 extends beyond national borders and recognises global issues and interests. In addition, we face other security challenges created by non-state factors such as terrorists. It is expected that Australians will continue to be threatened by terrorism at home and abroad, with terrorist activities continuing to evolve in ways which threaten our interests. Within Australia, the Defence industry will provide critical capabilities as part of our national counter-terrorism arrangements.
  • New technology is advancing at such a pace that it may outstrip the ability to acquire the necessary skills and training to manage this technology and associated threats, while automation in certain areas may trigger a degree of deskilling. Although these new technologies provide the defence industry with better tools, they come with an increase in threats, such as technology-related crime including cybercrime and propaganda (foreign interference in public affairs including elections), as well as terrorism encouraged by the radicalisation of young people through social media.

                    

In addition, the report Defence Industry Skilling and STEM Strategy by the Australian Department of Defence has identified, after extensive consultation, four key areas of focus for the purpose of sustaining and developing the workforce into the future. These include:

  • Engage: Improving access to information about Defence industry career opportunities and support for the national effort to improve the take up of STEM studies and careers
  • Attract: Supporting Defence industry businesses to grow and attract a national Defence industry workforce with the required skills
  • Train and retain: Encourage investment in skills and provide support to defence industry businesses to train and sustain a national Defence industry workforce
  • Collaborate: Facilitate stakeholder collaboration and coordination to improve understanding of future workforce needs at the sectoral level and enable faster responses by stakeholders.

A recent article by the Australian Government Defence Industry reveals the Government is investing $87 million in funding (to the end of FY2021-22) into the Defence Industry Skills Flexible Funding Pool to deliver new and existing initiatives to help industry engage, attract, train and retain a capable STEM workforce. For 2020-2021, initiatives will include:

  • $17m – for the Skilling Australia's Defence Industry (SADI) Grants Program which will help businesses skill and re-train their workforce.
  • $2.6m – Continue the Schools Pathways Program (SPP), which encourages student engagement in STEM and introduces them to the many career pathways in the defence industry.
  • $2.7m – Linking 3rd and 4th year engineering students with defence industry through the Defence Industry Internship Program (DIIP). This program provides 100 engineering students with direct connections to defence industry by facilitating 12-week paid internships with industry Subject Matter Experts.

The Public Safety IRC’s 2021 Industry Outlook reports that the capacity of the emergency services, particularly defence and police, in meeting the resourcing and logistical requirements of quarantining and border closures during COVID-19 has at times been stretched. The report also notes that constant deployments at such events and the threat of infection has placed a heavy burden upon the continued wellbeing of all frontline personnel. It is anticipated that COVID-19 will continue to impact Defence as it supports the whole-of government responses to the pandemic through the COVID-19 Taskforce.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported in late 2020 that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) saw a significant increase in interest from aspiring recruits, partly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic leaving a large amount of people out of work. Another reason suggested for the increase is due to Defence being in the public eye for its response to disaster relief, Operation Bushfire Assist and also its response and assistance with COVID. As well as prompting more people to apply to the ADF, the pandemic has also changed the way the military manages the recruitment process, now using online aptitude testing, virtual information days and virtual selection boards.

The Public Safety IRC’s 2021 Industry Outlook states specific priorities for Defence are to professionalise the workforce in roles critical to delivering and sustaining Defence’s capabilities. Building greater leadership capability in the executive level workforce also remains a priority, with the Defence sector seeking to ensure that Defence colleges and educational institutions are best equipped to develop the future leaders and workforce of the Australian Defence Force.

The report Defence State Sector Strategy 2030 has outlined five actions required to ensure the South Australian Government has the volume of workers with the required skill levels and experience to meet the demand for upcoming roles in naval shipbuilding, information warfare and the sector more broadly. These actions include collaborating with the university and VET sectors to provide education and training, and engaging with defence industry in SA to ensure their workforce requirements are fully understood and education and training is tailored to suit the demands of industry.

The significant positive economic impact of Defence industry contracts has been highlighted across a range of state-based reports. States including Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia have released strategies and plans to secure Defence industry contracts into the future. These will not only provide direct local employment, but also enable other state-based industries and businesses to provide a supporting role to the larger overarching Defence industry contracts. Please see the relevant research section for links to these reports.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and skills forecasts

Public Safety Industry Reference Committee

 

Relevant research

Defence Industry Skilling and STEM Strategy – Australian Department of Defence

Defence State Sector Strategy 2030 - South Australia, Defence SA

Drawn to Serve: Pandemic Sees Spike in Number of ADF Recruits - Sydney Morning Herald

How We are Helping to Grow The Workforce Behind The Defence Force - Australian Government Defence Industry

Queensland Defence Industries 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan – Queensland. Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning

The Tasmanian Defence Industry Strategy 2023 – Tasmanian Department of State Growth

Western Australia Defence and Defence Industries Strategic Plan – Defence West

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australian Army

Australian Government Department of Defence

Royal Australian Airforce

Royal Australian Navy

 

Employee associations

Defence Force Welfare Association

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit 760 Defence Industry, employment projections to May 2025
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • 1391 Commissioned Officers (Management)
    • 1392 Senior Non-commissioned Defence Force Members
    • 3231 Aircraft Maintenance Engineers
    • 4411 Defence Force Members - Other Ranks
    • 5311 General Clerks.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by 3 digit 760 Defence Industry, 2001 to 2021, May Quarter.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 3 digit 760 Defence Industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

 

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider CollectionTotal VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • DEF/DEF12 Defence Training Package
    • DEF10112 - Certificate I in Defence Force Cadets
    • DEF10117 - Certificate I in Defence Force Cadets
    • DEF20120 - Certificate II in Explosive Ordnance
    • DEF20220 - Certificate II in Explosive Ordnance Manufacture
    • DEF20812 - Certificate II in Explosive Ordnance
    • DEF20912 - Certificate II in Communications Operations
    • DEF21112 - Certificate II in Military Skills
    • DEF21115 - Certificate II in Military Skills
    • DEF21212 - Certificate II in Explosive Ordnance Manufacture
    • DEF22115 - Certificate II in Explosive Ordnance
    • DEF22215 - Certificate II in Explosive Ordnance Manufacture
    • DEF30117 - Certificate III in Field Petroleum Operations
    • DEF30120 - Certificate III in Explosive Ordnance Maintenance
    • DEF30217 - Certificate III in Preventive Health
    • DEF30220 - Certificate III in Explosive Ordnance Manufacture
    • DEF30317 - Certificate III in Air Dispatch
    • DEF30320 - Certificate III in Explosive Ordnance Operations
    • DEF30417 - Certificate III in Defence Public Affairs
    • DEF30420 - Certificate III in Explosive Ordnance Proof and Experimental
    • DEF30812 - Certificate III in Explosive Ordnance Maintenance
    • DEF30912 - Certificate III in Explosive Ordnance Operations
    • DEF31012 - Certificate III in Maritime Operations
    • DEF31112 - Certificate III in Driving in a Threat Environment
    • DEF31512 - Certificate III in Armoured Operations
    • DEF31612 - Certificate III in Artillery Operations
    • DEF31712 - Certificate III in Aviation Life Support Maintenance
    • DEF31812 - Certificate III in Defence Public Affairs
    • DEF31912 - Certificate III in Infantry Operations
    • DEF32012 - Certificate III in Military Engineering
    • DEF32112 - Certificate III in Regional Surveillance Operations
    • DEF32115 - Certificate III in Explosive Ordnance Manufacture
    • DEF32212 - Certificate III in Sensor Operations
    • DEF32215 - Certificate III in Explosive Ordnance Proof and Experimental
    • DEF32312 - Certificate III in Explosive Ordnance Manufacture
    • DEF32315 - Certificate III in Explosive Ordnance Maintenance
    • DEF32412 - Certificate III in Air Dispatch
    • DEF32415 - Certificate III in Explosive Ordnance Operations
    • DEF32512 - Certificate III in Explosive Ordnance Proof and Experimental
    • DEF32612 - Certificate III in Field Petroleum Operations
    • DEF32712 - Certificate III in Intelligence Operations
    • DEF32812 - Certificate III in Preventive Health
    • DEF32912 - Certificate III in Vehicle Recovery
    • DEF33012 - Certificate III in Defence Public Affairs
    • DEF33112 - Certificate III in Military Land Engineering
    • DEF33115 - Certificate III in Sensor Operations
    • DEF33212 - Certificate III in Military Land Operations
    • DEF40117 - Certificate IV in Defence Public Affairs
    • DEF40120 - Certificate IV in Explosive Ordnance Maintenance
    • DEF40217 - Certificate IV in Intelligence Operations
    • DEF40220 - Certificate IV in Explosive Ordnance Manufacture
    • DEF40317 - Certificate IV in Psychological Support
    • DEF40320 - Certificate IV in Explosive Ordnance Operations
    • DEF40412 - Certificate IV in Explosive Ordnance Maintenance
    • DEF40417 - Certificate IV in Defence Reporting
    • DEF40420 - Certificate IV in Explosive Ordnance Proof and Experimental
    • DEF40512 - Certificate IV in Explosive Ordnance Operations
    • DEF40517 - Certificate IV in Test and Evaluation
    • DEF40520 - Certificate IV in Simulator Maintenance
    • DEF40612 - Certificate IV in Range Control
    • DEF40617 - Certificate IV in Preventive Health
    • DEF40712 - Certificate IV in Defence Policing
    • DEF40717 - Certificate IV in Defence Paralegal Services
    • DEF40812 - Certificate IV in Defence Reporting
    • DEF40817 - Certificate IV in Defence Financial Administration
    • DEF40912 - Certificate IV in Defence Safety Coordination
    • DEF40917 - Certificate IV in Performance Based Contracting
    • DEF41212 - Certificate IV in Armoured Operations
    • DEF41312 - Certificate IV in Artillery Operations
    • DEF41412 - Certificate IV in Defence Diving
    • DEF41512 - Certificate IV in Defence Paralegal Services
    • DEF41612 - Certificate IV in Defence Public Affairs
    • DEF41712 - Certificate IV in Infantry Operations
    • DEF41812 - Certificate IV in Military Engineering
    • DEF41912 - Certificate IV in Explosive Ordnance Manufacture
    • DEF42012 - Certificate IV in Explosive Ordnance Proof and Experimental
    • DEF42112 - Certificate IV in Intelligence Operations
    • DEF42115 - Certificate IV in Explosive Ordnance Maintenance
    • DEF42212 - Certificate IV in Military Leadership
    • DEF42215 - Certificate IV in Explosive Ordnance Proof and Experimental
    • DEF42312 - Certificate IV in Preventive Health
    • DEF42315 - Certificate IV in Explosive Ordnance Manufacture
    • DEF42412 - Certificate IV in Test and Evaluation
    • DEF42415 - Certificate IV in Explosive Ordnance Operations
    • DEF42512 - Certificate IV in Work Health Safety
    • DEF42612 - Certificate IV in Military Land Operations
    • DEF42712 - Certificate IV in Military Land Engineering
    • DEF42812 - Certificate IV in Defence Paralegal Services
    • DEF42912 - Certificate IV in Defence Public Affairs
    • DEF43012 - Certificate IV in Psychological Support
    • DEF43115 - Certificate IV in Electronic Forensics
    • DEF43215 - Certificate IV in Simulator Maintenance
    • DEF43315 - Certificate IV in Work Health Safety
    • DEF45115 - Certificate IV in Range Control
    • DEF50117 - Diploma of Test and Evaluation
    • DEF50120 - Diploma of Explosive Ordnance Manufacture
    • DEF50217 - Diploma of Enterprise Architecture Practice
    • DEF50220 - Diploma of Explosive Ordnance Proof and Experimental
    • DEF50317 - Diploma of Compliance
    • DEF50320 - Diploma of Explosives
    • DEF50417 - Diploma of Defence Paralegal Services
    • DEF50420 - Diploma of Simulator Maintenance Management
    • DEF50517 - Diploma of Defence Public Affairs
    • DEF50612 - Diploma of Explosive Ordnance
    • DEF50617 - Diploma of Preventive Health
    • DEF50712 - Diploma of Range Management
    • DEF50717 - Diploma of Range Control and Management
    • DEF50812 - Diploma of Defence Chaplaincy
    • DEF50817 - Diploma of Defence Financial Management
    • DEF51112 - Diploma of Defence Paralegal Services
    • DEF51115 - Diploma of Leadership
    • DEF51212 - Diploma of Defence Public Affairs
    • DEF51312 - Diploma of Explosive Ordnance Manufacture
    • DEF51412 - Diploma of Explosive Ordnance Proof and Experimental
    • DEF51512 - Diploma of Military Leadership
    • DEF51612 - Diploma of Preventive Health
    • DEF51712 - Diploma of Test and Evaluation
    • DEF52115 - Diploma of Explosive Ordnance
    • DEF52212 - Diploma of Compliance
    • DEF52215 - Diploma of Explosive Ordnance Manufacture
    • DEF52312 - Diploma of Work Health Safety
    • DEF52315 - Diploma of Explosive Ordnance Proof and Experimental
    • DEF52412 - Diploma of Evaluations
    • DEF52512 - Diploma of Enterprise Architecture Practice
    • DEF52612 - Diploma of Defence Paralegal Services
    • DEF52712 - Diploma of Defence Public Affairs
    • DEF53115 - Diploma of Electronic Forensics
    • DEF53215 - Diploma of Simulator Maintenance
    • DEF53415 - Diploma of Institutional and Operational Chaplaincy
    • DEF54315 - Diploma of Evaluations
    • DEF55115 - Diploma of Range Management
    • DEF60812 - Advanced Diploma of Defence Public Affairs
    • DEF60912 - Advanced Diploma of Defence Public Affairs
    • DEF72115 - Graduate Certificate in Explosive Ordnance
    • DEF80112 - Graduate Certificate in Explosive Ordnance
    • DEF80120 - Graduate Diploma of Explosives
    • DEF80212 - Graduate Diploma of Explosive Ordnance
    • DEF80220 - Graduate Certificate in Explosives
    • DEF82115 - Graduate Diploma of Explosive Ordnance.
  • PUA Public Safety Training Package
    • PUA20802 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Explosive Ordnance)
    • PUA20806 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Explosive Ordnance)
    • PUA20810 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Explosive Ordnance)
    • PUA20902 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Communications Operations)
    • PUA20910 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Communications Operations)
    • PUA21106 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Military Skills)
    • PUA21110 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Military Skills)
    • PUA21207 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Explosive Ordnance Manufacture)
    • PUA21210 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Explosive Ordnance Manufacture)
    • PUA30802 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Explosive Ordnance Maintenance)
    • PUA30806 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Explosive Ordnance Maintenance)
    • PUA30810 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Explosive Ordnance Maintenance)
    • PUA30819 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Emergency Communications Centre Operations)
    • PUA30902 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Explosive Ordnance Operations)
    • PUA30906 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Explosive Ordnance Operations)
    • PUA30910 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Explosive Ordnance Operations).

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 program completions.

 

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET Students and Courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

Updated: 20 Jan 2022
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