Australian manufacturing is experiencing a period of renewed opportunities.

However, if manufacturing is to become the cornerstone of Australia’s economic future, skills development must be a key focus for the delivery of a vibrant modern manufacturing industry.

The Developing Modern Manufacturing through a Skilled Workforce consultation series, hosted by IBSA, has enabled manufacturing stakeholders from across the sector to discuss the skills challenges and opportunities. The need for economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the announcement of a significant $1.5bn investment into a Modern Manufacturing Strategy by the Federal Government further highlighted the timeliness of this activity.

Australia needs a strong modern manufacturing sector to be globally competitive, but to produce innovative products we must have responsive education and training sectors.

We need quality training that is jobs-focused and delivers the right skills across the whole supply chain.

Digitalisation of manufacturing is accelerating, and our workforces need to be able to keep up. We need to support upskilling and reskilling for people with a wide range of experience and capabilities.

Governments, industry and unions should work together to set an ambitious agenda for Australia’s economic recovery through modern manufacturing.

As representatives from some of the country’s leading industry organisations and unions, we agree that effective collaboration across industry, governments and both the higher and VET education sectors is vital to achieve meaningful impacts.

You don’t have industry if you don’t have skills.

Innes Willox

Chief Executive
Australian Industry Group

Jennifer Westacott AO

Chief Executive Officer
Business Council of Australia

Dr Ross Lambie

Chief Economist
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Scott Connolly

Assistant Secretary
Australian Council of Trade Unions

Message from the chair, IBSA Group

We have before us a great opportunity to enable a renaissance in manufacturing in Australia. Trade disruptions due to COVID-19 have companies working to onshore more of their supply chains and the closure of borders has halted skilled migration, with lasting impacts likely for years to come. Governments are also committed to substantial funding to re-skill our workforce in response to these challenges.

Now is the time for all of us invested in skills training in Australia to be bold and determined, to propose and, most importantly, get stuck into implementing practical solutions that will deliver relevant, dynamic training programs that meet the skills needs of current and emerging employers and industries. These solutions need to attract school leavers, the unemployed and current workers to the real skills-based career opportunities available.

A six-month consultation process, undertaken by IBSA Group, sought the views of employers and other organisations working in manufacturing and related industries then collated data to identify the priority actions needed to ensure Australia has the highly skilled workers required to support modern manufacturing.

I would like to acknowledge the of all who participated in this consultation series. We’ve seen presentations from 40 industry leaders, held on-going discussions with the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and enjoyed strong from the Chairs of IBSA’s Manufacturing Industry Reference Committees.

I would also like to thank former Skills Minister, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, who kicked off these activities and posed the challenge to provide her with ‘on-the-ground’ advice to help inform manufacturing skills policy and investment. This will be shared with the new Minister.

The recommendations in this report reinforce much of the research carried out over the past decade and provide a focus for government, industry and the training sector.

We look forward to working with all stakeholders to support the successful implementation of these recommendations and, through them, to see Australian manufacturing and its workforce continue to develop and thrive.

Graeme Russell
Chair, IBSA Board

About IBSA Group

IBSA Group is a not-for-profit organisation in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, dedicated to shaping workforce skills for the future.