Reskilling the manufacturing workforce and developing capabilities for the future
Context: Innovative economies require a workforce with a high level of technical skills and scientific awareness, yet worldwide there is a decline in the number of students participating in pre university science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Australia’s graduation rates in STEM fields are low by international comparison, providing challenges in meeting qualified workforce needs. Australia’s future in the next three to five years depends on a stronger workforce with more qualified engineers and associated professionals with high level skills who are capable of meeting the needs of growing industries such as advanced manufacturing and the maritime sector.
Purpose: This project identified the mismatch between current skills and future needs from a literature review and through interviews with Tasmanian industry stakeholders. It reflected on existing pathways and the changes required for ensuring that future skills needs are met.
Approach: Qualitative data on current skills and future skill needs were collected through semi-structured interviews with individual companies in the manufacturing, advanced manufacturing and maritime/marine industries in Tasmania. The companies selected for interview were either members of the Tasmanian Maritime Network or considered to be in growth industries or industries of importance for Tasmania. Companies were selected to ensure a mix of size, age of company and diversity within the industry.
Results: A major learning from this project was that there are common needs amongst the manufacturing, advanced manufacturing and maritime/marine industries for future skills despite the diversity of industries. The fundamental skills identified by industry for continued growth and effective management included basic skills such as literacy and numeracy, problem-solving, work ethic, IT, leadership and management including the need for staff to be multi-skilled. Technology is ever-changing and technology based skills for specific industries will also drive training needs for the future. Issues raised by industry included: retirement of the ageing workforce in these industries which will create a skills gap if industry does not address training and progression of existing staff; training providers were not necessarily offering the required training and therefore all companies offered some form of in-house training for specialty skills; and that the lack of higher level Vocational Education and Training (VET) in manufacturing, advanced manufacturing and engineering has left a gap of skilled staff in Tasmania.
Discussion and Conclusions: The results of this study clearly indicate that there is a need for VET and Higher Education (HE) to be flexible in their course offerings, and maintain a close relationship with industry (and with each other) to promote skills transfer between the sectors. This will ensure that the education and training sector remains relevant to meet the needs of employers, delivering consistent and quality learning outcomes. In addition, a close relationship will create a culture of communication and collaboration underpinned by mutual understanding of industry and education and training sector needs, possibilities and constraints.
Publication titleProceedings of the 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education
EditorsST Smith, YY Lim, A Bahadori, N Lake, RV Padilla, A Rose, K Doust
Department/SchoolAustralian Maritime College
PublisherSouthern Cross University
Place of publicationAustralia
Event title27th Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE) Annual Conference
Event VenueCoffs Harbour, Australia
Date of Event (Start Date)2016-12-04
Date of Event (End Date)2016-12-07
Rights statementCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License