Defence STEM cateds share their stories, program experiences and exciting career journeys.


STEM Cadet Program, Air Defence and Space Systems
Degree qualification currently studying: Bachelor of Psychology (Honours)
University attending: Australian National University
Year of anticipated graduation: 2023 (finished degree, finishes program mid 2024)

I applied for the STEM Cadetship because of its flexible work arrangements (i.e., the ability to undertake my placement days at times that were convenient to me, and fit into my university schedule), and the ability to get first-hand workplace experience relevant to my degree.

So far, I’ve enjoyed learning about all the projects Defence has to offer. It’s been a challenging (but positive) experience adapting to this new work environment. The work has been challenging but doable, and as my time goes on in the program, I feel I can give more back to my team and the projects they’re running.

What I found most surprising about the program was the complexity of the work that goes into acquiring and operating Defence capabilities – all the internal processes that have to occur before we see the ‘final product’.
The cadetship is a good ‘foot in the door’ to Defence and opens up career opportunities after the completion of my studies. It is a great way to ease into the professional workspace. 

This experience has given me an avenue for future career opportunities within Defence – hopefully in an area where I can fully use of my (psychology) skillset and expertise.

My advice to future STEM cadets is to give it time – it’s definitely an adjustment starting in Defence, but things get easier as time goes on. Be patient with yourself!


STEM Cadet Program, Major Surface Combatants & Combat Systems
Degree qualification currently studying: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) and Diploma in Professional Engineering Practice
University attending: University of Technology Sydney
Year of anticipated graduation: 2024 (June/July)

Andrew Johnstone

I previously worked in Australian Army Cadets and was excited to combine my passion for cadets with engineering. The STEM Cadetship gives me the opportunity to explore that and allows me to work on real-world engineering projects that impact Australia. 

I was fortunate enough to spend 100 days working full time this year in the Hunter Class Frigate Program. It has been great to be involved and taking responsibility for projects within the branch. Throughout my time I have been encouraged to seek every learning opportunity from all members of the team that has allowed me to learn so much during my time.

The most surprising thing about the cadetship is that didn’t expect that I would be involved in so many immersive experiences such as trips to HMAS Creswell, the Osborne Naval Shipyard and HMAS Adelaide. Given my relative inexperience, I was pleased to be viewed as a valuable member of the team and not just an intern (differing from my last internship).

Programs like the STEM Cadetship are important to give you a chance to see what motivates an engineering project, both outside the lecture room and commercial industry. It’s given me the opportunity to see how the primary motivation for a complex engineering project is delivering a vital capability to Australian Defence, rather than just delivering commercial value. It also provides clear pathways to increase STEM engagement and develops a sustained STEM workforce.

Looking into the future, I see this experience continuing to allow me to explore further career options as an engineer in Defence. I hope to complete the STEM Cadetship and move into the Graduate Program then transition into a full time role and later utilise Defence Studybank to complete a Masters in Systems Engineering.

The best advice I would have for other STEM cadets is to be ready to learn. It is important to understand that no one expects you to know everything that will help you complete tasks and projects in the program. Continuing to remain proactive and soaking up all you can will allow you to be an effective STEM Cadet.

To date I have completed 12-months’ worth of work experience during my studies. I have found that the most vital learning opportunities I have had while at university have come from work experience. The tools that make the most successful engineers cannot be taught in a classroom but have to be developed in professional environments. The STEM Cadetship has provided me the exact environment that is helping me become an effective engineer.