Manufacturing workers must get a trade to survive the jobs decline as the industry morphs into providing high-tech, high value products rather than the mass production of basic goods.
The nation’s competitive advantage over cheap labour markets overseas is in high quality, timely, niche and specialised technical goods.
It requires a skilled work-force in trades including engineering and welding.
Already Manufacturing Skills Australia reports that 95 per cent of employers are struggling to find qualified technical and trade staff, despite its predictions that there will be 30,400 fewer jobs in the industry nationally in 2016.
Employment growth of up to 2.4 per cent a year to 2016 is forecast in the areas of food production, chemical, printing and primary metal manufacturing.
In the same period, employment in clothing, furniture, fabricated metal and paper manufacturing is expected to fall by up to 4 per cent a year.
MSA chief executive Bob Paton said there was a need and capacity for Australia to produce high quality goods.
He urges young people to get a trade and those who already are in the industry to pursue adult apprenticeships, have their existing skills recognised by a training provider as a qualification or undertake training to top up their skills.
He said the industry was undergoing a restructure.
“Instead of very simple transformation of a raw metal to a simple product, it’s becoming more highly complex and a specialised product,” he said. “We need people who are smart, reasonably well trained and educated and willing to continue their development.”
Australian Outdoor Living is one of the high value manufacturers experiencing growth in South Australia.
The company started in Adelaide five years ago and initially outsourced its blinds – but supply delays led to it establishing its own manufacturing arm, Universal Blind Assembly, so that it could meet customers’ time demands.
Lucy Taylor, 21, has worked at the factory for six months as a welder.
She wanted a trade career and said her manufacturing job had presented her with a great opportunity.
“It’s different to what I thought it was going to be like. It’s a really fun environment,” she said.
The Tertiary Studies and Careers Expo is on tomorrow and Monday at the Convention Centre.
Did you know… Forty three per cent of manufacturing workers do not have a qualification.