August 22, 2022

On 17 August 2022, IBSA Group brought manufacturers, union leaders, peak bodies and training providers together at their Manufacturing Skills Forum to share opinions and insights on the strategies needed to address the skills needs of the manufacturing sector, both nationally and internationally. The Manufacturing Skills Forum highlighted the need for a collaborative and systematic approach to address the skills crisis facing the Australian manufacturing industry, which threatens to limit manufacturing growth and sovereign capability.

Minister for Skills and Training, the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP opened the forum and highlighted the challenges facing industry and the need for government and industry to work together to seize the opportunities that lie ahead. The Minister said, “As a government, it is imperative that we more precisely identify and supply the skills that are in demand now and in the future.” He also emphasised that supporting skills and training is crucial to continue growing other areas of manufacturing and highlighted the vital role of the vocational education and training (VET) sector in helping Australians to access secure, well-paid jobs.

Andrew Dettmer, National President, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union and Innes Willox, Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group, agreed on the need for a proper dialogue between government and industry, particularly in the lead-up to the Australian Government’s upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit.

Mr Willox reiterated that any skills response needs to have industry at the forefront, and that industry and education need to be linked up to produce outcomes. Mr Dettmer also called for the system to address the lack of support mechanisms in the current system for young apprentices moving between employers.

Panel discussions throughout the forum addressed topics including engaging the workforce and locking in opportunities, addressing labour shortages, the impact of new technologies and the skills system response.
Sharon Robertson, Chief Executive Officer, IBSA Group said, “The key themes echoed throughout all panel sessions were the need for collaboration and a systematic response, the mismatch between jobs and skills, and recognition that the challenges Australian manufacturing is facing in terms of supply of skilled labour are similar across the globe.” She said that while a range of strategies can be adopted, including use of skilled migration, skilling our own workforce is central to future-proofing the Australian economy.

“The key themes echoed throughout all panel sessions were the need for collaboration and a systematic response, the mismatch between jobs and skills, and recognition that the challenges Australian manufacturing is facing in terms of supply of skilled labour are similar across the globe.”

Sharon Robertson, Chief Executive Officer, IBSA Group

According to the National Skills Commission, 60% of businesses are currently recruiting and 30% of those report recruitment difficulties. The manufacturing industry is having more difficulty finding workers than other industries, and 40% of technical and trade occupations are in shortage. This increased competition for labour supply will mean that employers will need to develop new ways of identifying, attracting and skilling up the workforce.

There was also widespread agreement that the development and deployment of new technology is central to a modern manufacturing industry and is necessary for ensuring increases in productivity and greater global competitiveness. The panel was united that the speed at which technology is moving is increasing, and that it is crucial to Australia’s economic recovery and essential to its competitiveness. New and existing capability is needed to drive the economy forward and employers must look for workers to embrace, use and maintain technology.

The forum also found that the nature of training and education delivery is changing. While there is still a place for face-to-face delivery, the needs and expectations of learners are changing. It identified the importance of industry having different types of skills responses available, including online learning, workplace simulations and augmented reality.

Ms Robertson said industry and training providers will need to work together to deliver contemporary insights into training new skills and there is important discussion to be had about how we respond to industry training needs in a way that has value for the employer, the individual and industry. “Ultimately, the challenge is how to bring industry closer to the skill system so that training meets the needs of the current and future Australian workforce.”

The IBSA Manufacturing Skills Forum has been an important precursor event to the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit. It has provided industry with a dedicated forum to discuss the impact on the overall supply of skilled workers for a growing manufacturing industry and the skills implications for the manufacturing workforce, over an extended period, if there is no significant intervention.

About the 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. IBSA Group incorporates a Skills Service Organisation, which develops training packages and qualifications for the manufacturing sector, and Australian Training Products, which designs and develops high-quality accredited learning and assessment resources. IBSA Academy also forms part of the Group and offers non-accredited professional development for training practitioners. IBSA Group is committed to supporting the VET sector within Australia and globally, through working with stakeholders across industry, government and training providers to enable the workforce of the future.

For more information, please contact Danielle Parker on 0400 775 229 or [email protected]