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Karen Andrews

THE Australian federal government has announced a $5 million initiative designed to encourage engineers to stay in the Australian automotive sector after graduating.

Announced yesterday by the minister for industry, science and technology Karen Andrews, the $5 million grant is part of the federal government’s $100m advanced manufacturing fund announced in the 2017/18 federal budget.

As part of the program, graduate students will put forward research proposals, with the most impressive of those to receive government funding.

Despite the closure of vehicle manufacturing in late-2017, Australia still has a healthy automotive sector for design and future technologies, a point Ms Andrews wanted to emphasise.

“As an engineer myself, I am very pleased to announce the opening of a program that seeks out some of our best and brightest graduate engineers to pursue research projects with automotive businesses,” she said.

“Australia has a thriving automotive components sector and is competitive in global vehicle design. We need more of the highly skilled engineers involved in these areas and across the broader automotive industry, including trucks and buses, in order to compete internationally in the rapidly changing space of vehicle design.

“Engineers, designers and technicians have a key role to play in the transformation of Australian automotive manufacturing to higher value-added products and services.”

The announcement of the program was met with approval by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).

Home grown: The federal government will invest $5 million into ensuring promising young engineers stay in the Australian automotive industry.

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said the announcement will ensure the future of the Australian automotive industry would continue to thrive.

“Australia’s automotive industry continues to be a global hub for engineering, design and the development of future vehicle technology,” he said. “This program helps to ensure that Australia continues to reap the benefits of many decades of investment into the automotive sector.

“Automotive designers and engineers are at the forefront of future developments, as the global automotive industry transitions to low-emission, connected and autonomous technologies. We encourage collaboration with industry to enable maximum opportunities for program participants to leverage global supply chain opportunities.

“Advanced skills are crucial to future needs across Australia’s automotive sector, which will help to ensure the safety and security of Australian consumers as they purchase and maintain new vehicle technology. It is important that adequate skills and training are deployed and maintained across Australia’s automotive industry.”

Despite the closure of local vehicle manufacturing, brands such as Holden and Ford still have a significant local design and engineering presence, with the former sporting a team of 500 designers across its Melbourne-based GM Design Australia studio and proving ground at Lang Lang, south-east of Melbourne.

The Lion Brand also announced in August it plans to recruit an extra 150 engineers for the local arm of GM’s Advanced Vehicle Development division. It recently invested $20m to refurbish Lang Lang, including $7.5m for 7500 tonnes of asphalt to resurface its 4.7km circular test track.

Meanwhile, Ford employs roughly 1500 local designers and engineers as part of its Asia Pacific Product Development team that works on a number of global projects including the Ranger pick-up and Everest SUV.

Ford currently has an R&D budget of around $500 million in Australia, while Holden recently boosted its local investment by $28m to $120m.

By Robbie Wallis

Branded Financial