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Manufacturing Industry Skills Alliance | Ministers' Media Centre

The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Manufacturing Industry Skills Alliance | Ministers’ Media Centre



I begin by acknowledging the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet today.

I pay my respects to their Elders past and present.  

And I extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today.

I want to acknowledge Graeme Russell, chair of the Manufacturing Industry Skills Alliance (MISA) board, and other board members here today.

I would also like to acknowledge CEO Sharon Robertson, the leadership team and staff.

And a special welcome to Professor Barney Glover, who has just started in his role as Commissioner of Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA).

When we came to government, we were faced with the most significant skills crisis in half a century.

At the same time, our economy is undergoing the most rapid transformation in history.

We have made good progress but given the scale of the challenge there is much left to do.

Jobs and Skills Australia and our ten Jobs and Skills Councils (JSCs) are integral pieces of the workforce and skills puzzle. 

Too often in the past, ambitions to support industry growth have treated skills as either a given or an afterthought.

We know that achieving ambitions like Net Zero, sovereign capability and building 1.2 million homes, relies on the right skilled workforce.

And ensuring we have the right skilled workforce requires detailed analysis, significant collaboration and the need to regularly take stock and adjust as necessary.

That is why JSA and JSCs are so critical. 

They are central to setting the course and making sure we are on track.

Just as manufacturing is central to the future of our economy.

Manufacturing touches the daily lives of all Australians, in such profound ways that it has become invisible or taken for granted.

It is so ubiquitous that we tend to notice it most when something goes wrong – like a pandemic.

It is important to remember that without the industries represented here we wouldn’t have our transport networks, our medication or our food.

We wouldn’t have the cars we drive, the books we read or the materials we use to build.

That is why today’s event is so important. 

And it couldn’t be better timed. 

Just last Thursday the Prime Minister announced our new Future Made in Australia Act.

We want to drive investment in new industries that will create secure jobs for Australians and encourage more manufacturing here.

We want to maximise opportunities for all Australians, businesses and our economy.

As the Prime Minister made clear, the skills of Australians will be critical to our success. 

Just as the Future Made in Australia Act will be critical to the success of Australians in getting good, secure jobs.

We established Jobs and Skills Australia with a specific purpose.

To work across governments, industry, and education and training sectors to provide independent data, analysis and insights to better understand current and future skills and labour shortages.

JSA’s work is already helping inform us on the best approach to deliver skills to a modern economy.

JSA works closely with Jobs and Skills Councils, including the Manufacturing Industry Skills Alliance.

This ensures that the advice JSA gives to government is informed by industry insights from the real economy and responds to evolving demands.

JSCs have been a missing piece in the skills puzzle.

MISA’s expanded role includes workforce planning, supporting training delivery, and industry support and stewardship.

Given the pace of change, this includes identifying and anticipating emerging trends and emerging opportunities.

Both where industry is going and how do we want to shape it.

This is MISA’s most important role – taking an industry wide role in identifying skills needs.

And taking a leadership role in solving them.

Your workforce planning activities complement key government priorities such as AUKUS and the Defence Strategic Review.

This planning will help grow the manufacturing workforce that will enable Australia to deliver a viable sovereign defence industrial base.

Another priority of our government is diversifying and transforming our industry and economy through the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund.

Whether it is advanced manufacturing, green minerals or supply chains, the NRF will facilitate innovation that will require new ways of working and new skills.

The manufacturing industry is vital in growing priority areas, including medical science, defence capability, renewables and low-emission technology.

As is, partnership with states and territories.

To that end, late last year our government signed a five-year National Skills Agreement with all state and territory governments, the first such agreement in over a decade.

It will see up to $30 billion invested to expand and transform access to our national vocational education and training (VET) sector.

This investment will help TAFEs and training providers to deliver quality education and training, and implement reforms to address critical skills needs.

The National Skills Agreement includes an explicit and central role for Jobs and Skills Councils.

Tripartism is core to our approach and JSCs are critical to making it real.

Having unions, employers and governments all working together will help to ensure we deliver on agreed national priorities, including supporting our Net Zero transformation and developing Australia’s sovereign capability and food security.

The VET sector is critical for that skilling and reskilling.

This will only increase into the future.

Emerging and advanced technology industries will require new and higher-level skills and knowledge.

9 out of 10 future jobs will require post school qualifications, and around half of those will require vocational level training.

Fee-Free TAFE is one of the game-changing aspects of the Albanese Government’s partnership with States and Territories. 

More than 355,000 Australians enrolled in Fee-Free TAFE last year.

Removing financial barriers has seen more women, more First Nations Australians and more people with disability engage in education and training.

Enrolments have been strong across all priority sectors, including manufacturing.

Apprenticeships and traineeships are another key piece of the skills puzzle.

Getting the best outcomes for apprentices and trainees is vital to ensuring we have the skills our economy needs.

And we know that almost half of all apprentices don’t complete their training.

To that end, in February I announced a Strategic Review of the Apprenticeships Incentive System, led by Justice Iain Ross and Lisa Paul.

And it’s great to see Justice Ross here today.

Their review is already underway and will assist the government to implement a more effective, sustainable and long-term incentive system for apprentices and trainees.

I want to finish by reiterating that the support and expertise provided by the Manufacturing Industry Skills Alliance is key to growing a strong, resilient manufacturing industry with a highly skilled workforce into the future.

Thank you. 

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