IBSA Group report finds a way forward for skilled manufacturing industry post-COVID

IBSA

Manufacturers, union leaders and peak bodies have identified skills development priorities essential to building sovereign capability and economic growth in an IBSA report to be presented to the federal government this week. 

The report, Scaling Up. Developing Modern Manufacturing Through a Skilled Workforce, is the result of extensive national industry engagement by not-for-profit workforce skills organisation the IBSA Group. 

The report will be presented to Industry and Education and Skills departmental officials this week. 

“I would like to thank IBSA Group for the work that has led to the Developing Modern Manufacturing through a Skilled Workforce Report,’’ Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business Stuart Robert said. 

“The report is welcomed for its extensive collaboration with industry, unions and the training sector, as well as government, to help inform the skills agenda. We are looking forward to continuing to drive the Australian economy forward with a skills-led approach.” 

IBSA Group CEO Sharon Robertson said there was strong and clear consensus from manufacturers, training organisations, peak bodies and unions operating within the sector to provide more work-based learning and apprenticeship training opportunities that create pathways to higher skills development. 

“To build sovereign manufacturing capability in the post-Covid era, industry wants a workforce skilled in product development, new technologies, design and prototyping, along with gaining efficiencies through sustainability and collaborative skills,’’ Robertson said. 

“The clear need for the development of advanced skills from the platform of work-based learning was identified. One of the key recommendations of the report is greater recognition of apprenticeships as pathways to higher qualifications and higher learningThe manufacturing sector wants to see a system of apprenticeships that incorporate extensive STEM-based skills that provide qualifications equating to a diploma or advanced diploma.’’ 

More collaboration between the VET and Higher Education sectors and industry to create more synergistic skills development pathways was also recommended. 

“The focus on apprenticeships in last week’s Budget will be welcomed by manufacturers because in real terms, investment in the VET sector is currently at its lowest in a decade,’’ Robertson said. “Development of work-based learning should align and integrate VET with the Higher Education sector, rather than compete against it.’’ 

In the development of the report, roundtable panellists Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox, Business Council Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist Ross Lambie, and ACTU assistant secretary Scott Connolly all agreed on the renaissance-like opportunities facing the sector but that skills were fundamental to the delivery of a vibrant modern manufacturing industry. 

Robertson said manufacturing could not grow without a skilled workforce. 

“If the recovery out of COVID has shown us anything, it’s that we can’t be slow in responding to the need for change,’’ she said. “Manufacturers have been responsive and flexible in responding to the challenges of 2020. The skills sector needs to be just as responsive to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead for Australian manufacturing and the industry’s current and future employees.’’ 

Other recommendations of the report included: 

  • Prioritising the reskilling and upgrading of skills of existing workers 
  • Allowing micro-credentials to be recognised across industry and easily incorporated into broader qualifications 
  • Extending apprenticeships in a nationally consistent manner to support the development of new occupational areas such as space and minerals processing 
  • Creating a national, forward-looking body to identify and support skills development for new and emerging industries 
  • Supporting sustainability and the circular economy by making energy efficiency skills more widely available within existing and new qualifications 

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