Innovation & Skills Key To Australia's Manufacturing Future

The Manufacturing workforce study released by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) today underlines the critical importance of skills and innovation if the sector is to have a competitive future.

Shadow Industry Minister Senator Kim Carr and Shadow Minister for Vocational Education Sharon Bird MP welcomed the report and called on the Abbott Government to implement its recommendations.

“AWPA has produced a high quality report that clearly identifies the importance to Australia’s economy of the manufacturing sector, as well as the challenges it faces,” Senator Carr said.

“The report outlines the role government must play to ensure Australia’s manufacturing sector transitions successfully and remains competitive. In particular, it recommends continued government support for Enterprise Connect and the Office of the Chief Scientist.”

“High-skill jobs supported by STEM qualifications in advanced manufacturing will be increasingly important. Government must nurture emerging industries, such as food and biomedical, and promote greater collaboration between business and industry.”

“The Labor Government put in place proven programs to achieve these goals – we can’t risk seeing our progress on these fronts lost because of the Abbott Government’s hands off approach to industry policy.”

The report also recommends strengthening employer/apprentice matching, streamlining employer advisory services, improving apprentice mentoring and better coordinating apprentice and employer support across all levels of government.

“Today’s report states that support is needed for programs which assist businesses to develop and upskill their workforces such as the Workplace English Language and Literacy program and the National Workforce Development Fund, which face an uncertain future under the Abbott Government. Labor is deeply concerned about the effects any decrease in support would have on a sector already under considerable strain,” Ms Bird said.

“It is important that workers in the manufacturing sector have access to formal training to upskill. This is not just a benefit for employees, but will also help to improve productivity and innovation and help to adapt to the rapidly changing manufacturing environment.

“We need to make sure that our kids are able to learn a trade through Australian Apprenticeships.  Minister Macfarlane must stand up and fight to protect the skills area of his portfolio from any budget cuts in May. 

“We call on the Government to guarantee that no cuts will be made in skills, training and key business support programs.”

The release of this report comes amid speculation that the Government is preparing to abolish AWPA and amalgamate its functions into the Department of Industry.

AWPA was established in 2012 by the former Labor Government, replacing Skills Australia, to provide expert, independent advice to government on current, emerging and future skills and workforce development needs.

“Abolishing AWPA would be a senseless and ill-timed act of stupidity by the Abbott Government,” Senator Carr said.

“Here we have yet another body with real world industry experience that the extremely limited Abbott Ministry appears to be taking out of the policy equation.

“The Department has not fared well under the Abbott Government - we’ve seen its advice disregarded time and again, unjustifiable delays to key programs, and 200 jobs axed already with another 200 set to go in the next few months.”

Any move to dismantle AWPA would require legislative change.

“AWPA brings together the peak national bodies such as ACCI, AiGroup and the ACTU to achieve industry leadership - another key factor for success identified in the report released today,” Ms Bird said.

“The Abbott Government claims it wants input from industry yet it is apparently seeking to disband the key national policy and research body on skills, which brings stakeholders together.

“Despite Tony Abbott promising to create one million jobs, he has done nothing but bring about more job losses and failed to provide any plans for skills and jobs.  Now is not the time to close down the Agency set up to advise on future skills needs.”