Australian business, union leaders to tackle sovereign manufacturing strategy issues

Australian business and union leaders will meet this week (Wednesday, February 24) to discuss how major challenges identified by the manufacturing sector in the wake of the Federal Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy can be overcome.

The Senior Industry Leaders Roundtable Event, organised by national skills standards developer the IBSA Group, is the last in a series of seven online-based industry engagement events involving employers and the workforce. It will culminate in a report to Government on findings and recommendations.

Surveys and engagement conducted by IBSA have revealed that just under half of Australian manufacturers have identified opportunities to address shortages caused by overseas supply chain disruptions to critical manufacturing areas. However, skills shortages remain a critical area of concern for employers.

Leading discussion on issues such as skills shortages in the manufacturing sector compounded by an aging workforce, reduced skilled migration, international lockdowns, and an inability to attract young staff to the sector, will be panelists:

  • 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

IBSA Group CEO Sharon Robertson said manufacturers in 2020 had shown they could adapt quickly to fill needs identified by the pandemic.

“Business leaders have told us that all six priority areas identified in the Modern Manufacturing Strategy have strong supply chain connections to most sectors of Australian manufacturing, but they are willing to pivot further to reduce sovereign supply chain risk.

“Just under half of the businesses we have surveyed have already identified opportunities that will allow them to replace supplies caught up in overseas supply chain disruption but there is a question about whether the training system has the capability to adapt as quickly.’’

Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said this week’s event was a timely opportunity for leading representatives of business and the workforce to agree on what is needed to take advantage of the opportunities now facing Australian manufacturing.

“Future-focused training delivered with and in industry will be the critical factor that will turn the aspirations of the Modern Manufacturing Strategy into real opportunities to increase manufacturing capability onshore,’’ Mr Willox said.

Business Council Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott said the Roundtable was an opportunity to address issues such as the pace of change connected to emerging technology with other business and union leaders.

“Digitisation of manufacturing is accelerating, and our workforces need to be able to keep up with that,’’ Ms Westacott said.

Ms Robertson said clear consensus amongst industry had identified the need to develop specialised skills to ensure local supply chains at the small to medium enterprise level were able to contribute to increased sovereign manufacturing capability.

“Skills development in areas such as design and product capability prototyping and testing, and value and supply chain mapping skills were regarded as critical in ensuring the growth of local manufacturing capability,’’ Ms Robertson said.

A report including recommendations to Government from the series of consultations conducted by the IBSA Group will be presented to Skills Minister Michaelia Cash following the Roundtable.

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