The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has awarded 760 Defence Technical Scholarships to Year 11 and 12 students this year. The scholarships are worth up to $3000 in payments, and include experience in Defence Force events for those seeking apprenticeship in a trade.
"The Australian Defence Force is not immune to the nation-wide shortage of skilled technical tradespeople," Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel, Alan Griffin, said in a statement. "The Australian Defence Force seeks to help keep young people at school longer so that they build a better foundation for a future trade career.
Under the scholarship, Year 11 students will receive $2000 paid over two semesters and Year 12 students will receive $3000.
This year's intake was significantly higher than the 2009 drive's 569 scholarships. A total of 972 students applied for the 2010 scholarship, with the highest intake came from NSW students at 295, followed by Queensland with 207 and Victoria with 118.
The annual career drive coincides with an increased bid by Defence to boost its skilled workforce. Defence chief technology officer, Matt Yannopoulous, told the Australian Computer Society 2010 Canberra conference that the department's ICT workforce was lacking.
"Whilst we have more than a couple of thousand people, we have a remarkably small number of people who are actually IT professionals, and that is something we are seeking to address over the coming period," he said.
However, a Defence spokesperson told Computerworld Australia that only 16 of the 569 scholarship recipients from 2009 were enlisted into Australia's armed forces.
Griffin said that "recipients are under no obligation to join the Australian Defence Force on completion of their Scholarship or schooling".
Updated: A spokesperson for the Australian Defence Force notified Computerworld Australia that winning scholars do not receive any technical training. Instead, the scholarship money is provided to students with "no strings attached" in order to encourage those with recognised talents to pursue a trade and, possibly, to apply for a career in the Defence Force.