Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Engineering Education

Reskilling the Manufacturing Workforce and Developing Capabilities for the Future

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Engineering Education

Reskilling the Manufacturing Workforce and Developing Capabilities for the Future

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

In Australia, manufacturing plays a major part in the economy at both national and local scales and extends through multiple industries (Australian Government 2013a; MSA 2014, 2015; Giffi et al. 2015). Low qualification rates are widespread across the manufacturing industry with 45.2% of the workforce without any post-secondary qualifications and impeding the development of more advanced industries and business models (Australian Government 2013a; Beddie et al. 2014; MSA 2014, 2015; Tasmanian Department of State Growth 2014; Committee for Economic Development of Australia 2015).

The skills base needed in the twenty-first century is one that encompasses a mastery of core knowledge in a key field along with a number of well-developed workplace skills such as critical thinking, effective communication and willingness to engage in continued lifelong learning (Business-Higher Education Forum 2013). Multiple changes in career are likely and now expected in the workforce; having strong base knowledge to understand emerging digital technologies and new approaches to problem solving will be required (Deloitte Australia 2014).

1.1. Skills in the manufacturing and maritime industries

There have been numerous reports and papers over the last five years looking at the manufacturing and related industries, their skills, training needs and contribution to the Australian economy now and into the future. These reports have been synthesised into this review.

1.1.1. Issues and needs of the current industry

Industry skill concerns for the future workforce are focused on the inadequate fundamental numeracy and literacy skills of the workforce (Australian Government 2013b; Business-Higher Education Forum 2013), problem solving, critical thinking, and effective communication skills and engagement in learning (Business-Higher Education Forum 2013). Other concerns are the ageing workforce (Australian Government 2013b; Beddie et al. 2014), skill shortages, the level and importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills in current training options (Australian Government 2013b; Toner and Stilwell 2014) and the ability of the workforce to adapt to the changing industry (Australian Government 2014). The manufacturing and advanced manufacturing industries will be strengthened through improving skills that generate innovation (Parilla, Trujillo, and Berube 2015). The workforce needs attributes such as team spirit, willingness to learn, commitment to the organisation, capacity to foster innovation and improve business performance (Mendes and Machado 2015). Prinsley and Baranyai (2015) discovered that employers found their STEM-trained employees to be the most innovative and adaptable to change. They also found that the top four skills that were rated by employers as the most important were active learning, critical thinking, complex problem solving and creative problem solving.

The uptake of training and apprenticeships will not offset the potential knowledge gap that will exist as the current workforce approaches retirement. A focus on training and education will need to occur in order to avoid significant skills gaps which will become more pronounced as the technology and innovation in the manufacturing industry evolves (Manufacturing Skills Guidelines Australia, 2015). MSA (2015) predicts capacity will decline in the manufacturing industry as a result of the skills gap due to the ageing workforce.

Numerous reports on manufacturing in Tasmania identify the largest constraints in growing businesses and industry as being skills gaps, shortages and the small size of the skill base in Tasmania (Allison, Broun, and Lacey 2013; Enterprise Connect Innovative Regions Centre 2013). Developing skills and training for Tasmania's North West manufacturing industry in particular is a key issue. A shortage of suitably qualified trade and professional staff is currently impacting growth of firms and has been identified as a critical issue for the future development of businesses located in that region of Tasmania (Enterprise Connect Innovative Regions Centre 2013). …

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