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Thousands of STEM spots to be funded in AUKUS push

The government will fund an additional 4000 university places for STEM students to create a workforce capable of building a nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

Thousands of scientifically-inclined students will have their university courses financially covered as the government attempts to nurture the workforce needed to build the long-awaited AUKUS nuclear submarine fleet. 

The government will fund 4001 commonwealth-supported places in science, technology, engineering and mathematics bachelor degrees across 16 Australian universities.

A quarter of them have been designated for institutions in South Australia, where the submarine construction will be based.

Defence Minister Richard Marles says the government's $128 million investment over the next four years is critical to shoring up the much-needed workforce.

Richard Marles says the government's investment in education will be critical.

"The Australians who will help to build and maintain our conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines are at the heart of this historic, nation-building project," he said on Wednesday.

Acting SA Premier Susan Close said the extra university places were a "vote of confidence" in the state's shipbuilding capability.

"These places mean we can immediately start building the skilled workforce that will sustain our existing and future defence capabilities," she said.

SA will need to more than double its current skilled workforce from 3500 workers to more than 8500 by 2040 to deliver the trilateral submarine fleet, according to a defence report released in November.

Susan Close says extra university places are a vote of confidence in South Australia's capability.

To support this, the government will also aim to engage 27,000 South Australian students in STEM education throughout primary and high school while preparing university students for the workforce via paid apprenticeships and an early careers program.

Experienced workers will be given the opportunity to upskill through mid-career transition programs.

The recruitment effort has proved a challenge so far as intense competition for labour and shortages already plague the industry.

But Mr Marles says the push will help give more young Australians an opportunity to go to university and contribute to "one of the most significant industrial endeavours".


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