National Manufacturing Summit grapples with skills in transition

Kicking off the National Manufacturing Summit, held at The Australian Synchrotron, Gayle Tierney, Victorian Minister for Skills and Education, set the tone for the day’s discussion with her remarks on the state of manufacturing in Victoria and Australia as a whole.

“Victorian manufacturing is going through a transition, we all know it’s going from a sector dominated by automotive manufacturing to a more diverse mix.”

Tierney cited defence, aerospace, biomedical, and other industries as the high growth manufacturing sectors for the future.

With skills occupying recent headlines as apprenticeship numbers dropped to a ten-year low, Tierney responded to the chorus of voices calling for action on the VET sector.

In 2018, the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) research conducted research that showed that 75 per cent of employers found it difficult to recruit suitably qualified or skilled people. Most in demand are technicians and trades workers.

Representing the education and training providers who train the students and individuals who go on to employment in industry, Tierney highlighted that the Victorian government is responding to changing demands and needs for skills and training.

“We support developing partnerships between training providers and industry to make sure that the Victorian system has relevant, accessible training.”

Following Tierney’s remarks, federal shadow Minister for Employment and Industry, Brendan O’Connor, noted that TAFE and the vocational education and training (VET) sector needs reform.

“The overriding commitment that Labor made to increase investment in research and development remains a commitment. By investing in research and development (R&D), government provides the resources for universities and research institutions to produce results that inspire investment by private industry.”

One of the providers who are directly involved in the training of future manufacturing employees is Professor Michelle Gee, director of the Sir Lawrence Wackett Aerospace Centre at RMIT University, commented that industry and universities should work in an immersive way.

“The fabric of industry and university should be interwoven.”

Addressing these issues will be the focus of the summit, with discussions focussing on skills for an advanced, diverse manufacturing sector.