Attrition: The Great Geek Shortage Down Under


August 31, 2007: Australia's navy is suffering from a serious geek shortage. With a total strength of 13,000, being short a few dozen people in some job categories can have serious repercussions. For technical specialties, you either have some key technical people on a ship, or that ship doesn't go to sea. Currently, the navy is 35 percent short of marine engineering officers, 28 percent for weapons (electrical) engineering officers and 16 percent for principal warfare officers. The marine engineering officers are in charge of the engines and other mechanical equipment on the ship. The weapons officers are responsible for keeping the complex electronics in weapons functional. The warfare officers know how to get all the weapons systems to operate together. Ships still put to sea, short one or two of these officers, which puts a heavier workload on the ones who are aboard.

Australian warships have been active in the war on terror, resulting in many crews being away from home for up to six months at a time. There are shortages of both officers and sailors with technical skills.

The situation is further complicated by a booming economy, and big demand for those with engineering degrees, and a few years of experience. This makes it easy for engineering officers to leave the navy and get a higher paying, and more comfortable, job. The navy is responding with cash bonuses, better living and working conditions, and other fringe benefits.

All Western navies have similar problems, and have applied similar solutions, with some degree of success.


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