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Monday, 11 August 2003
Page: 13088


Senator Chris Evans asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 1 November 2002:

(1) What action has the Royal Australian Navy taken to address the significant shortfall of pilots, seaman officers, weapons electrical aircraft engineers, electronic technicians and marine technicians that existed as at 1 July 2001.

(2) How many pilots, seaman officers, weapons electrical aircraft engineers, electronic technicians and marine technicians have been newly recruited to the Royal Australian Navy since 1 July 2001.

(3) How many pilots, seaman officers, weapons electrical aircraft engineers, electronic technicians and marine technicians have separated from the Royal Australian Navy since 1 July 2001 (can the information on separations be broken down to show the length of service of those personnel that separated from the Royal Australian Navy).

(4) Does the Royal Australian Navy conduct exit surveys as a means of determining why personnel with specialist skills are separating from the Royal Australian Navy; if so, what do the findings of these surveys show; if not, why not.

(5) What is the current strength of pilots, seaman officers, weapons electrical aircraft engineers, electronic technicians and marine technicians at navy bases.

(6) What is the required strength of pilots, seaman officers, weapons electrical aircraft engineers, electronic technicians and marine technicians at navy bases.

(7) What action is the Royal Australian Navy taking to overcome the ongoing shortage of pilots, seaman officers, weapons electrical aircraft engineers, electronic technicians and marine technicians.


Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) The Royal Australian Navy has undertaken considerable effort to identify and rectify problems in these areas.

Pilots. A project has been established to provide the required number of qualified pilots and observers by mid 2013 through a ten-year ramp-up program. The Navy Capability Management Committee recently considered a paper that details a three pronged approach (short-term retention, mid term loans and transfers, and long term rectification of systemic issues).

Seaman Officers. Significant activity is underway to address the shortfall of Seaman officers including addressing workforce requirements, training throughput and retention issues. A recruiting campaign targeted specifically at Seaman Officers resulted in a significant increase of recruiting, achieving 86% of the original target.

Weapons Electrical Aircraft Engineers. Weapons Electrical Aircraft Engineers are the subject of a number of activities, including the introduction of an “Interim Retention Allowance”, continuing professional development programs and the introduction a recognition program as a “Chartered Professional Engineer” with the Australian Institute of Engineers.

Electronic Technicians. The Electronic Technician workforce structure was critically examined with the result of a modest reduction of the workforce requirement, thus effectively reducing the shortfall. Recruiting targets have been set at maximum training capacity levels and a focussed recruiting campaign has produced significant improvements in the achievement rate.

Marine Technicians. In mid 2001, Marine Technicians (MT) were surveyed to identify their reasons for separation or an intention to separate. A working group was established to implement recommendations and to further identify policy and management action that will improve the retention of MTs. The MT recruiting campaign has achieved excellent results with a near 100% achievement of targets now occurring.

(2) The following recruiting achievement has occurred since 1 July 2001

Trade

Number newly recruited (including lateral recruitment and transfer between service)

Pilot

28

Seaman

169

Weapons Electrical Aircraft Engineer

2

Electronics Technician

252

Marine Technician

413

(3) The following separations have occurred since 1 July 2001

Trade

Length of Service

0-3 years

3-6 years

> 6 years

Pilot (Trained)

1

4

Seaman (Trained)

4

70

Weapons Electrical Aircraft Engineer (Trained)

2

Electronics Technician (Trained)

1

30

152

Marine Technician (Trained)

10

73

207

Pilot (Under Training)

14

1

Seaman (Under Training)

50

8

5

Weapons Electrical Aircraft Engineer (Under Training)

1

Electronics Technician (Under Training)

48

Marine Technician (Under Training)

77

(4) The Royal Australian Navy conducts voluntary exit surveys. The most recent data available, which was collected during the period January-December 2001, contains 5 respondents from the Seaman Officer qualification, 34 respondents from the Electronic Technician category and 40 respondents from the Marine Technician category. There were no respondents from the Pilot or Weapons Electrical Aircraft Engineer Officer qualifications, so it is not possible to provide reasons for leaving information for the January-December 2001 period for these two trades.

The top five reasons for separation were:

Seaman Officers: (Based on 5 respondents which equates to 5% of those who separated in 2001. All 5 respondents were females which may account for the significant difference between the reasons listed and those of the wider Navy community which are reflected in the Electronic and Marine Technician reasons).

· personal experience of other types of unacceptable behaviour;

· lack of control over life;

· poor leadership by my immediate supervisor;

· conflict with superiors; and

· sea service obligation.

Electronic Technicians: (Based on 34 respondents or 20% of those who separated in 2001).

· desire for less separation from family;

· little reward for what could be considered overtime in the civilian community;

· desire to stay in one place;

· better career prospects outside; and

· lack of recognition for work done.

Marine Technicians: (Based on 40 respondents or 19% of those who separated in 2001).

· desire for less separation from family;

· insufficient equipment or resources to do my job;

· to make a career change while still young enough;

· little reward for what could be considered overtime in the civilian community; and

· lack of recognition for work done.

(5) Pilots 87

Seaman 773

Weapons Electrical Aircraft Engineer 31

Electronics Technician 1,065

Marine Technician 1,905

(6) Pilots 141

Seaman 1077

Weapons Electrical Aircraft Engineer 32

Electronics Technician 1,399

Marine Technician 2,286

(7)

Pilots. The short-term plan (1-3 years) is focussed on retention management including re entry and the use of Reserves. All pilots or observers considering discharge are counselled by a senior Aviation manager. A comprehensive on line survey was recently conducted to determine the retention profile of all pilots and observers. An environmental scan of the helicopter pilot and observer job opportunities market, local, regional and globally, for the short, medium and long-term, will soon be undertaken in conjunction with the Army by a commercial company to more fully understand the threat to Pilot and Observer retention. Information obtained will be used to determine what further (if any) short-term retention measures may be required, noting the present maturing of the pilot and observer financial retention incentives.

Seaman Officers. The RAN is undertaking a number of actions to address the significant shortfall of Seaman Officers. These actions include:

· a senior officer has been appointed as Head of Surface Warfare Community to improve Warfare officer and sailor management. A Seaman Officer Management Plan is being implemented;

· improved Seaman Officer recruiting material and maximum Seaman Officer recruiting targets;

· changes to the structure of Seaman Officer training to motivate officers and increase pass rates; and

· the development of a Principal Warfare Officer Retention Allowance to improve Navy's retention of that section of the Seaman Officer community.

Weapons Electrical Aircraft Engineers. Although there are shortages remaining predominantly at the rank of Lieutenant, there are now sufficient trainees coming through the ranks to resolve the shortfalls within the next four years. Improvements to career structures and remuneration will reduce the likelihood of future shortfalls.

Electronic Technicians. ET workforce structural review is ongoing with the aim of optimising the workforce resource. This applies to both sea going and shore positions.

· recruiting targets are being closely managed and the recruiting organisation remains focussed on maximising target achievement;

· the length of initial training for ET sailors is considered too long and results in sailors not commencing a full time sea going billet until over two years has elapsed since joining. This is a de-motivator and is being addressed through a revision of the initial training packages; and

· ET work practices are being altered to make the trade more attractive and rewarding and thus improving retention.

Marine Technicians. MT sailors have a similar initial training time problem as that experienced by ET sailors. The MT initial training packages is being restructured accordingly. In addition:

· Navy is implementing changes to engineering watch keeping practices to significantly reduce the machinery watch keeping requirement, thereby releasing MTs at sea to concentrate on tasks that require maintenance and trade/technical skills. This is being positively received in the workplace and should improve job satisfaction and retention;

· the ANZAC Ship MT workforce arrangements are being modified to create a sustainable workforce structure that meets the maintenance requirement. This initiative is aimed at improving work practice, job satisfaction and retention. It also reduces the MT manning liability to sustain ANZACs by 445 positions; and

· selected ships will trial a significantly reduced engineering duty watch requirement alongside in their homeport over the Christmas leave period. If successful the new routine will be permanently implemented to allow personnel to spend more time with their families whilst in their homeport.