Innovative digital diploma scoops national defence award

Flinders University

Monday, 30 November, 2020

Innovative digital diploma scoops national defence award

Flinders University has won, in partnership with ASC Shipbuilding, the Training and Mentorship Program of the Year in 2020 for the Diploma of Digital Technologies in Defence Connect’s Australian Defence Industry Awards.

The Diploma of Digital Technologies was launched in March 2020 by the Minister for Defence and Defence Industry and is currently upskilling 51 shipbuilders from ASC Shipbuilding, BAE Systems Australia, equipping them with digital skills for modern shipbuilding, supported by the federal and state governments.

Throughout the program, students develop future-focused skills in innovation and Industry 4.0, cybersecurity, digital design, design for manufacture, cyber-physical systems, robotics and automation. They also undertake hands-on industry projects in Industry 4.0 that are currently underway.

Flinders University President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling said the award is recognition of Flinders University and ASC Shipbuilding applying research and teaching expertise across digital systems to equip workers to meet future demands in the defence industry.

“2020 has been a challenging year, but it has not slowed Flinders University down in our commitment to deliver what is now a nationally award-winning program to equip students with skills of the future workforce in such uncertain times,” he said. “This recognition is a testament to Flinders University’s strength in defence and engagement with the sector, including our expertise in workforce innovation, business management and engineering across the whole supply chain for the defence industry. I am delighted to see our research making an impact in this nationally significant sector.”

Flinders University Professor in Innovation and Program Director Giselle Rampersad said the recognition highlights successful partnership between university, industry and government, and also the importance of Australian organisations being able to use digital technologies to boost sovereign manufacturing capacity in a cost-effective fashion to enable them to manufacture critical products and be competitive globally.

“We thank our partners, students and the team, and look forward to building on this success into the future,” she said. “We plan to expand the program to include SMEs and organisations from a broad range of sectors from defence to manufacturing, health, energy and construction, which will also benefit from digital upskilling — a key skill in the COVID-19 economic recovery and beyond.

“Skills such as innovation and Industry 4.0, cybersecurity and digital transformation are critical for a range of workplaces for international competitiveness.”

Professor Rampersad said launching a new teaching program on 30 March 2020, in the first wave of COVID-19, was a challenge the Digital Diploma team stepped up to.

“It was indeed challenging — we planned an immersive experience, starting with a week of orientation to connect with everyone and moving into the first subject with factory tours and hands-on activities,” she said. “With the pandemic, we had to switch overnight to online and commence the orientation online from the onset.

“Like the students, we learned so much on the art of the possible. We saw students move from fear of the unknown to enjoyment and excitement in the program as they settled in. That was really rewarding to see their confidence grow.

“By the time the second wave hit in November this year, students were not fazed at all,” she continued. “They had developed innovation skills. Students now boast that they are ‘digitally awoken’.

“It has been a momentous year for all involved and it was wonderful that the program was recognised nationally.”

The program was delivered by Flinders University in partnership with TAFE SA, with all 51 participants in the inaugural program having maintained high academic standards.

“They are now progressing their final projects which will feed into the Hunter Class Frigate Program innovation program, which will drive practical advanced manufacturing solutions to real-world issues within the shipyard,” said the Managing Director of ASC Shipbuilding, Craig Lockhart. “Students will transition into roles within the Hunter program which, without the diploma, would not have been achievable. We are anticipating a significant shift of these workers from test and activation and production roles into design, engineering, production management and integrated logistics support.”

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