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Industry 4.0 - Skilling Geelong's future advanced manufacturing workforce

The Gordon hosted a manufacturing forum in June to discuss how best to build the skills capability of our advanced manufacturing workforce.

Ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices using modern smart technology – known as Industry 4.0 – is rapidly increasing, and employers, peak bodies, key stakeholder groups and advocacy organisations agree, the main challenge and focus is addressing the skills gap. 

The Gordon’s vision to build a highly skilled, capable and globally competitive workforce to sustain and grow the advanced manufacturing sector across the Greater Geelong region was readily shared by attendees and the discussions that ensued proved supportive and insightful.

The aim of Industry 4.0 Skills Development Discussion was to understand the future of skilling the advanced manufacturing workforce in Geelong. Furthermore, it was designed to bring local leaders together to discuss training needs and how best to build a stronger, capable and highly skilled workforce.

Keynote speakers included CEO Innovation Business Skills Australia (IBSA) Sharon Robertson, Department of Education and Training Industry Engagement Director Warren Hill, Geelong Manufacturing Council Project Manager Leanne Nelson, and The Gordon’s Science and Technology Head of Centre Yasmin Chalmers.

The Honorable Richard Marles MP made a special appearance via video highlighting the skills challenges facing companies who are finding it hard to attract the right people.  

“It’s a problem here in Geelong, and one of the solutions that have been identified is that this issue can be tackled at a local level, but it means everyone in that locality getting around the table, which is why today’s discussion is so important,” Mr Marles shared. 

“It also means that the local TAFE college, for us - The Gordon - is so important in delivering this outcome.” 

Mr Marles continued stating that The Gordon is central to solving this at a local level and said identifying the required skills will help Geelong meet its economic future and move ahead.

The Gordon’s CEO, Joe Ormeno, also acknowledged that the skills needed by modern manufacturing workers were changing. 

“As new technologies are implemented, some core functions of manufacturing job roles have been automated, and new skills are required to engage with technology and systems.

“We hear from our stakeholders that advanced manufacturing in Australia is facing major challenges due to skills gaps and shortages and that these skills are fundamental to the delivery of a vibrant advanced manufacturing industry.”

The IBSA Group CEO Sharon Robertson shared an extensive series of research and consultation activities conducted by IBSA – Delivering Modern Manufacturing through a Skilled Workforce. This initiative responded to increasing changes in workforce skills requirements, the Australian Government’s release of the Modern Manufacturing Strategy (MMS), and the ongoing disruption caused by COVID-19.

This report provides insights from industry leaders and stakeholders from across the manufacturing industry on the challenges currently facing the manufacturing sector. It also proposes strategies to support the development of a highly skilled workforce that can underpin the future of manufacturing in Australia.

The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent global economic slow-down and disruption to supply lines have demonstrated that national resilience requires the ability to achieve self-reliance in design, production and supply – for food, medical supplies, transport, defence and other needs.

With manufacturing continuing to play a significant role in Greater Geelong, it is not surprising that the diverse and dynamic sector accounts for one-third of the region’s top 25 businesses. The sector makes the greatest contribution to economic output in the region, which at $7.053 billion accounted for 22.45 per cent of total output according to the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s 2016 Census. With advanced manufacturing now on the rise, it is reasonable to expect that the 2021 Census data will show an upward trend across all industry sectors.

With the move from traditional to advanced manufacturing resulting in a shift in practice that brings a multitude of employment prospects for local workers, the collaborative network aiming to close the skills gap will see The Gordon developing a plan that meets the short and long-term skills requirements of both employers and individuals. It is expected that the solution(s) will not only close skills gaps but address other workforce challenges identified by the local advanced manufacturing sector.