Pursuing a Predictable Workforce in a Dynamic Geopolitical Region, with an Evolving Labour Market – How Can Air Force Optimally Deliver National Air Power?

LocationAir Force Headquarters, Brindabella Business Park, ACT

Duration: 5 months

Proposed start date: ASAP

Project Background

Air Force, when not on operations, is predominantly a training organisation that attracts, recruits, trains and develops its workforce to meet dynamic capability requirements; historically, this has been pursued through a largely closed, hierarchical system. Air Force has recently introduced additional flexibility through greater mobility between the full-time and part-time components and an enhanced ability to draw efficiently upon different workforce mixes to meet capability demand. The workforce system design has promoted its employees into leadership positions on a competitive basis, growing its leaders from the ‘bottom-up’, to best exploit technical and military mastery in all operating environments. Air Force initially employs its people on a contract basis for varying initial minimum periods of service followed by indefinite tenure, creating high uncertainty in labour assuredness. This high uncertainty in a continuously evolving geopolitical environment, a fiscally constrained political structure, and dynamic external labour market (both from a labour availability and labour loss perspective), coupled with a preference to optimise return on training investment and experience, challenges Air Force’s ability to respond to operational and technological shifts in an agile manner without compromise to labour assuredness.

Air Force seeks the expertise of an Operations Research PhD student to research the speed at which Air Force can respond to its changing environments, to understand its vulnerabilities and identify controls for maintaining workforce assuredness.

Research to be Conducted

Air Force seeks to understand its workforce vulnerabilities in the context of pivoting its labour in an agile manner, with minimal loss to the external market, while meeting its geopolitical demands. Accordingly, the key questions are:

  1. How quickly can Air Force pivot its current workforce to meet changes to regional and non-regional operational demands?
  2. Where do the greatest vulnerabilities exist in Air Force’s workforce system, to rapidly change its skills composition, experience profile and size?
  3. What future research would be recommended, for Air Force to exploit or amend its current controls to enact agile workforce practices with minimal compromise to labour assuredness?

Air Force maintains access to high-fidelity, population-level HR data including movements within both the whole-of-Defence and Air Force. The successful student will be provided the data required to undertake the research, as well as a Defence Protected Network account, and access to SPSS Statistics and/or SPSS Modeller, as required.

Should the SPSS suites be insufficient for the purposes of this research, Air Force can de-classify the data for exporting to an external machine. Subject to negotiation, Air Force will fund provision of the required software license on an external machine should this aid delivery on the research outcomes.

Skills Required

  • Programming
  • Simulation and optimisation
  • Data science literacy

Expected Outcomes

Air Force expects the research will culminate in a report that articulates key findings for Air Force consideration in the context of policies and controls that might mitigate identified vulnerabilities. It expects a supporting software model, either stand-alone or Defence network-based, to enable changes to parameters for simulating alternative scenarios.

Further, it expects guidance for the conduct of future research that would yield new insights into opportunities that exist for Air Force to build agile workforce practices without creating vulnerabilities.

Additional Details

The intern will receive $3,000 per month of the internship, usually in the form of stipend payments.

It is expected that the intern will primarily undertake this research project during regular business hours, spending at least 80% of their time on-site with the industry partner.  The intern will be expected to maintain contact with their academic mentor throughout the internship either through face-to-face or phone meetings as appropriate.

The intern and their academic mentor will have the opportunity to negotiate the project’s scope, milestones and timeline during the project planning stage.

Applications Close

22 May 2019


APR – 0865