Hing­ing on

De­velop your skills to se­cure a fu­ture in the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, writes Cara Jenkin

The Advertiser - Careers - - Front Page -

SKILLED staff and smart ways of work­ing are in high de­mand to ad­vance the na­tion’s man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, which has a more se­cure fu­ture than em­ploy­ment num­bers show.

Man­u­fac­tur­ing is the only in­dus­try in which em­ploy­ment is fore­cast to de­cline in the five years to 2016, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment re­ports.

In the past year, em­ploy­ment in the in­dus­try fell by 53,800 work­ers and is pre­dicted to fall even fur­ther in the next five years by 30,400 po­si­tions.

Yet Man­u­fac­tur­ing Skills Australia says al­most all man­u­fac­tur­ing en­ter­prises re­port skill short­ages.

The fu­ture will see a de­mand for smart staff who can per­form hi-tech and high­value work that pro­vides a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage over mass pro­duc­tion.

Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics fig­ures show man­u­fac­tur­ing em­ploys about 8.5 per cent of the na­tional work­force, or 971,200 peo­ple.

In 2001, it em­ployed the most peo­ple of any sec­tor in Australia. Now, it is ranked fourth. Within the in­dus­try there are the struc­tural steel and weld­ing trades (51,500 work­ers), pro­duc­tion man­agers (42,900) and me­tal me­chan­i­cal fit­ters (38,800).

MSA chief ex­ec­u­tive Bob Pa­ton says em­ploy­ment de­cline is caused by the in­dus­try mov­ing away from labour­in­ten­sive, low-skill work. ‘‘ Those peo­ple who are do­ing that work in Australia need to tran­si­tion to some­thing else but . . . there’s a whole bunch of skills re­quired,’’ he says.

‘‘ For ex­am­ple, we have a lot of peo­ple to make cloth­ing but we have a short­age of peo­ple who can make shade sails.

‘‘ We’ve got a project at the mo­ment that looks at how we can trans­fer ba­sic sewing skills.

‘‘ If you look at the fu­ture of tra­di­tional man­u­fac­tur­ing, it’s not very flash. If you look at op­por­tu­ni­ties that are aris­ing, the new types of work, it’s quite broad in­deed.

‘‘ It’s not as doom and gloom as peo­ple think.’’

Ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing is the la­bel used for hi-tech man­u­fac­tur­ing work, which can range from the cre­ation of med­i­cal equip­ment for arthro­scopes, mea­sur­ing just 3mm in di­am­e­ter, to build­ing huge au­to­mated ma­chines used in man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses.

‘‘ In­stead of very sim­ple trans­for­ma­tion of a raw me­tal to a sim­ple prod­uct, it’s be­com­ing more highly com­plex and a spe­cialised prod­uct,’’ Pa­ton says.

It also is high-value work in which Australia can be com­pet­i­tive in a global, mass pro­duc­tion mar­ket among coun­tries with cheaper labour costs.

Qual­ity and time­li­ness give Aus­tralian man­u­fac­tur­ers an ad­van­tage.

‘‘ The area Australia does re­ally well is, in par­tic­u­lar, high-qual­ity goods,’’ Pa­ton says. ‘‘ It’s about find­ing our place to what we want to make and con­sume in Australia, what we want to ex­port. The goal would be to mov­ing out of low value-added prod­ucts to more high value added.’’

He cites be­ing able to make prod­ucts and de­liver them on de­mand, rather than hav­ing stock sit­ting at depart­ment stores, as a way busi­nesses across the sup­ply chain can save money. But this re­quires a highly skilled work­force.

Work­ers skilled in me­tal fabrication, weld­ing, sheet­metal work, fit­ting and ma­chin­ing have the best out­look as their skills are in de­mand in sev­eral in­dus­tries.

Pa­ton en­cour­ages young peo­ple to get a trade and older work­ers to look at how best to trans­fer their skills to man­u­fac­tur­ing growth ar­eas. He says they should train to se­cure the ex­tra skills they need and find out how their ex­ist­ing skills can be recog­nised in that train­ing.

Gov­ern­ment pro­grams are help­ing ma­ture-age work­ers top up their skills to ob­tain a qual­i­fi­ca­tion and older staff also are en­cour­aged to con­sider an adult ap­pren­tice­ship.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.