RDA Hunter

Building a homegrown Hunter workforce

RDA Hunter’s ME Program links defence industry and students to build an industry-skilled, homegrown Hunter workforce.

The Hunter region has a significant defence force presence and RDA Hunter (RDAH) is helping to ensure that local students are well prepared for the many opportunities available when they leave school. One of its most successful initiatives is the ME Program, which operates within local schools to help students from years 7 to 12 to build their STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills they will need for the workforce. 

Since 2009 the program has been helping to connect the Hunter Defence Industry with its future workforce by increasing students’ awareness of defence industry careers and pathways, and upskilling them in preparation for STEM jobs.

RDAH Director of Regional Development and Executive Officer, Trevor John said the program has been embraced by students, and had secured the Hunter Defence Industry’s access to a home-grown talent pool with relevant skills.

“The ME program is helping to shift the perception among our young people that they have to go somewhere to do something exciting,” Mr John said.

“The program provides engaging practical career experience which includes student mentoring and networking opportunities.”

Mr John said there are a range of skills most in demand by the Hunter Defence Industry, with shortages in systems engineering, design engineering, project management, cyber security, software design, electrical engineering, planning and production and integrated logistics. 

The ME Program was supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Defence Schools Pathway Program, and is part of RDAH’s engagement initiatives with the local defence industry. 

Defence Industry and Airforce mentors and judges from RAAF Base Williamtown have participated since the activity’s inception adding industry contextualisation, mentoring advice and support to advance the innovation skills and capabilities of Hunter region students.

Developed in 2017, the activity is delivered annually and planned again for 2023. 

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Photo credit: Agency 1765

Students from Callaghan College Waratah “Taking Flight” part of RDA Hunter’s Girls With A Mission aviation skills project.

Photo credit: Business Centre

Photo of John Turner (Chair, RDA Hunter) presenting an award to a high school student participant at RDA Hunter’s STEM Defence + Innovation “Pitch Night”