News & Insights | Career changers: Taking the leap into a career in Defence – Leah McDougall and Phil Clifford

Career changers: Taking the leap into a career in Defence – Leah McDougall and Phil Clifford

22 August 2023

Leah McDougall and Phil Clifford, graduates of the first intake of the Defence Industry Pathways Program (DIPP), look back on their time in the Program fondly.

In what was a massive career change for both, the pair have been in their roles at Babcock for over 12 months – Phil as a Subcontractor Coordinator and Leah as a Project Scheduler.

We spoke with both, as well as Babcock Talent Engagement Partner, Erin Gillard, to find out how the career change has panned out for them so far.

Leah McDougall

Leah, who speaks glowingly of her time at Babcock, provides an insight into her role.

“I’m working with the Warship Asset Management Agreement (WAMA) Alliance to develop and manage the Integrated Project Master Schedules (IPMS) for the Anzac Class Frigates defect rectification and external maintenance periods,” she said.

“Currently I am developing the schedule for HMAS Toowoomba’s maintenance period, my first project as lead scheduler.

“My favourite part of the role is the collaboration between different departments to provide a successful maintenance period to our customer, the Royal Australian Navy.”

Appreciative of the support provided to her throughout the DIPP, Leah says she believes she’s found a “lifelong career”.

“The networking opportunities available during the Defence Industry Pathways Program and overall educational content enabled me to narrow which career pathway I wanted to follow, and provided me with the knowledge to negotiate and obtain a role I truly feel is the start of a lifelong career,” she said.

Speaking of her ‘lifelong career’, the ambitious Leah already knows what the next step looks like.

“I want to develop my knowledge and skill base as a Project Scheduler before advancing to Project Management qualifications and experience,” Leah said.

“My goal is to one day be a Project Manager for the Defence Industry.”

Phil Clifford

In the same manner as his fellow DIPP graduate, Phil also speaks glowingly about his current role.

“I love being out and about, coordinating multiple tasks – nothing is ever the same,” Phil said.

“I enjoy interacting with a range of people and companies, working on a range of tasks from engineering to maintenance. I have had the opportunity to work on many of the vessels and currently coordinating works on HMAS Parramatta.

“I have great leaders around me that are very knowledgeable and supportive – I can go to them with any question and they take the time.

“They are supportive of my development and new areas I want to learn.”

While on the topic of development, Phil, again like Leah, knows where he wants to take his new career.

“My goal is to increase my technical knowledge and keep on developing in my role,” he said.

“My longer-term goal in the next few years is to be one of the leading subcontractor coordinators.

“Long-term, I would love to stay with Babcock and have opportunities for growth and development.”

Reflecting on his time in the DIPP, Phil says that, given the support provided, there is every opportunity for your success.

“The traineeship gave you everything you needed,” he said.

“You’re out there and the program sets a base of knowledge and experience for you to work off, there is no reason you can’t succeed.

“As long as you were committed you would succeed.”

Erin Gillard

As Babcock’s Talent Acquisition Business Partner, Erin explains how the DIPP helps attract people to the often-misunderstood defence industry.

“People are generally aware of Defence, but not necessarily of defence industries,” Erin said.

“There is a misunderstanding of the market. This Program creates clarity and opportunity to attract individuals to defence industries.

“Right from the start the trainees get a sense of belonging and respect.

“Trainees are supported throughout, getting both experience with industry and gaining formal training with South Metropolitan TAFE, navigating through the unknown with full support from Programmed and industry.

“DIPP gave us, as an organisation, exposure to a group of talented individuals who may never have considered applying.

“Many of them don’t think they have a chance, but we, with this program, can give them that chance.

“It is the best interpretation of on-the-job training from a very supportive team within the company, that is paired with a qualification.

“The reward at the end is 70% of graduates gain full-time employment within the defence industry. This is life altering.”

Erin encourages anyone thinking of applying for the DIPP to give it a shot.

“It doesn’t matter your demographic, experience or education – come in and experience it,” Erin said.

“Do it and take every opportunity given to you.”

Leah and Phil absolutely took the opportunity they were provided with, and Erin says they are now in a position to affect the direction of their careers.

“(The reason we hired them) was their enthusiasm and culture fit – we knew the organisation would support them as they were committed,” Erin said.

“They have built confidence and understanding of their roles.

“The sky is the limit for both Leah and Phil, they are driving their own careers.”

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