By Lana Guineay
When you’re talking about shipbuilding in South Australia, it’s easy to think big: billions of dollars, thousands of jobs, decades-long projects.
The scale of the industry – not to mention the ships and subs themselves – might be huge, but it’s the opportunity it provides for people in SA that keeps every day exciting, says ASC’s Jessica Caston.
As Test and Activation Operation Manager for ASC Shipbuilding, Jessica is part of one of the most complex ship builds in Australia’s history, the Air Warfare Destroyer Project.
Jessica’s highly-skilled team is involved in the final testing stages of the shipbuilding process, ensuring that all systems, including steering and propulsion, are functioning to specification before handing the vessel over to the Commonwealth Government, giving Jessica a firsthand look at the skill and enthusiasm that goes into completing such large-scale projects.
“Our people are so passionate and proud of what they deliver, and I don’t know if you’d get that everywhere in the world or in Australia,” she says.
“South Australian pride is definitely a fundamental component of what we’ve been able to deliver here.”
With more than 2500 employees across three facilities in SA and WA, including at the Government’s shipyard at Osborne, ASC has evolved into Australia’s largest specialised defence shipbuilding organisation.
The company’s defence projects include the Navy’s Collins Class Submarines and the Air Warfare Destroyer program, as part of the AWD Alliance and soon-to-be-built first two Offshore Patrol Vessels.
Jessica’s career has evolved alongside ASC and the boom of shipbuilding in the state.
“I was born in the Adelaide Hills and throughout my entire life I’ve remained in SA and I’ve been presented with some fantastic opportunities,” she says.
“Working in the defence industry was nothing I initially anticipated that I wanted to do with my life.
“I started here and immediately fell in love with the enthusiasm, the scope of the projects, the complexity and the challenges that came with it.”
“When I see the ships, I still feel excited. I had the opportunity to go out on sea trials on Brisbane and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my career.”
Starting in the IT department at ASC, within 10 years Jessica advanced to project management, then to leading the teams responsible for testing the destroyer before delivering it to the Royal Australian Navy.
Her career progression has been unique, and Jessica is quick to point out the diversity of roles available in the industry.
“People shouldn’t believe that shipbuilding is purely about construction or engineering. There is a myriad of opportunities, from finance, HR, or planning, supply…” she says.
Looking ahead, Jessica believes the scale of current and future shipbuilding projects, like the Air Warfare Destroyers currently being built by the AWD Alliance, will create and sustain thousands of careers for decades to come in SA.
“The future of shipbuilding in SA is extremely exciting,” she says.
“The state will be building two offshore patrol vessels, then undertaking the build of nine Future Frigates, a little after that we’re also going to be commencing the build of new submarines to replace the Collins Class. The precinct down here is going to more than double in size.
“In the next decade it’s anticipated that there will be a requirement for over 6000 direct jobs in shipbuilding. These future shipbuilding projects are going to be a massive win for the state.”
Jessica is an I Choose SA ambassador for the shipbuilding and defence industries.
I Choose SA for Shipbuilding and Defence Industries stories are made possible by City of Salisbury:
Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to read more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.