A new study has found that Australia will need to develop its workforce to compete in high-end Australian manufacturing over the next decade.
The Manufacturing workforce study report, developed by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) in consultation with industry, unions and the tertiary education sector, was released last month at an industry forum in Melbourne.
The report examines how Australian manufacturing’s shift from heavy industrial manufacturing to value-added, technologically advanced production will impact on jobs and skills in the years to 2025.
AWPA Chair Mr Philip Bullock said that in order for Australian to remain competitive manufacturing needs to transition to a more diverse, high-end base, where there will be a stronger focus on research and innovation and more niche manufacturing of complex high value added products.
“Raising skill levels in this workforce will be critical, and the industry will require more people with higher education skills, particularly science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and improved management skills to provide the technical and leadership capacity to drive the sector’s transition,“ Mr Bullock said.
“Deeper engagement will also be needed between manufacturers and universities and research bodies to ensure the supply of the higher skills required and to drive innovation through research.“
Professor Matthew Cuthbertson, Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation, in RMIT’s College of Science, Engineering and Health provided input to the study drawing on his extensive experience in strategy and technology commercialisation in the medical devices, defence, and manufacturing sectors.
“Universities need to incorporate knowledge from research in their teaching programs to deliver the skills that underpin a competitive workforce,“ Professor Cuthbertson said.
“RMIT researchers using multidisciplinary, collaborative approaches are exploring the viability of new complex products and the processes involved to develop them.“
“From vocational education, through to masters and PhD programs, the University incorporates new industrial platform technologies that expose students and new researchers to innovative technology and design,“ said Professor Cuthbertson.
“With expertise in additive manufacturing, industrial automation as well as other key manufacturing areas, RMIT is able develop technologies and applications across many major industries including aerospace, defence, textile technology, and biomedical sciences,“ Professor Cuthbertson said.
The Manufacturing workforce study report says despite recent downturns and closures in some subsectors, manufacturing in Australia can have a positive future.
The industry is Australia’s fourth largest employer, makes a disproportionately large contribution to export revenue and research effort and plays a critical role in the uptake and spread of innovation in our economy.
The study finds despite a probable lack of overall job growth in manufacturing, businesses will generate demand for a wider range of skilled Trades Workers, Technicians and Professionals, particularly in STEM disciplines.
Technology and innovation may result in the loss of some occupations but will also change the scope of job roles and create new job opportunities.
Read the report
The Manufacturing workforce study report, key messages and a podcast interview on the study, with the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency’s CEO Robin Shreve and the Australian Industry Group’s Megan Lilly, is available at www.awpa.gov.au.