Is there a Future in Australian Manufacturing?

renewableenergy solar manufacturing

Innovation, creativity and sophistication are words increasingly being used to describe the future of manufacturing in Australia.

While it’s true the manufacturing sector continues to contract as it has since the 1970’s, those who work within manufacturing can enjoy greater job security by broadening their scope.

Presently, the Australian manufacturing industry is enjoying an upturn in activity thanks to strong home building and commercial construction in the East Coast metropolitan areas, and as exports slowly increase in response to the sharp currency decline against the US dollar. For the 2015/16 financial year, 42 per cent of Australian businesses are expecting better profits, driven by increased turnover and that lower Aussie dollar boosting export returns. According to the Australian Chamber-Westpac Survey of Industrial Trends, manufacturing results for the year remain well above those for 2014 and indeed the historic average. This leaves manufacturers in a stronger position to increase employment levels.

Manufacturers have the opportunity to take advantage of other sectors experiencing growth in Australia – not just exports and construction. Engineers, manufacturers and those in associated industries have the technical knowledge and problem solving skills needed to respond to constant change and innovate where needed in a changing trade environment. Recently, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten suggested manufacturers could seek security in renewable energy. Acknowledging manufacturing has taken a hit with the departure of car manufacturing giants from the Australian market, Mr Shorten encouraged manufacturers to get behind climate change and ahead of the renewable energy market. “There’s a lot of car component makers who could start making solar products.” Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy has also cited renewable energy as the way of the future for Australian industry. “The renewables sector is an amazing opportunity for us as a country…the renewable sector can create the jobs of the future,” said Mr Roy.

Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology at UNSW Australia, Veena Sahajwalla, also urged manufacturers to innovate, pointing out the growing demand for health care services and the associated infrastructure, equipment and electronics required. “Businesses might identify opportunities for diversification by making chips for various electronic products used in entertainment and health industries,” Ms Sahajwalla said. She suggested car parts manufacturers’ could begin creating steel parts for equipment or beds for hospitals as the aged care system calls out for them.

So where is the future of manufacturing? MIGAS are committed to securing Australia’s future, especially its manufacturing future, whatever it may look like. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, the key to securing the future in any form is to ensure the skills are there for the next generation. 

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Published 14 October 2015