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Manufacturing and Related Services


This page provides high-level information on the Manufacturing and Related Services industry. The industry, as it is represented here, covers the following eight sectors (in alphabetical order):

The Manufacturing and Related Services industry is very diverse, covering multiple sectors. It forms a large part of the Australian economy and is one of Australia’s largest employing industries. It has, however, declined in size due to factors such as the increasing availability of manufactured products in lower cost economies.  

Nationally recognised training for Manufacturing and Related Services occupations is delivered under the following training packages:

For information on other Manufacturing related industries see the following cluster pages:

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Industry cluster training snapshot

Overall, there were more than 101,680 program enrolments in 2020 across Manufacturing-related qualifications, down from around 114,470 in 2016. More than half (52%) of all enrolments were in MEM - Metal and Engineering Training Package and one-fifth (20%) were in the MSF - Furnishing Training Package.

The number of program completions continued to decline, from approximately 35,310 in 2016 to 29,580 in 2020. Overall, 46% of all program completions were in the MEM – Metal and Engineering Training Package, 16% in the MSM – Manufacturing Training Package and 13% in each of MSL – Laboratory Operations Training Package and MSF – Furnishing Training Package.

Enrolments in subjects delivered as part of a nationally recognised program decreased from approximately 298, 780 in 2016 to 248,740 in 2018, before increasing in 2019 to more than 270,080. In 2020, there were about 232,730 enrolments. Conversely, enrolments in subjects not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program increased from approximately 117,720 in 2016 to 175,190 in 2018 before decreasing. In 2020, there were about 128,080 enrolments.

Industry cluster snapshot

Industry insights on skills needs

There are nine detailed IRC skills forecasts for the Manufacturing and Related Services industry, each published in late 2019. The key generic workforce skills of the combined Manufacturing IRCs are listed in each skills forecast to enable comparison with those specific to each industry sector.

The top five generic skills for the combined Manufacturing IRCs in order of priority were:

  • Design mindset/Thinking critically/Systems thinking/Solving problems skills
  • Technology use and application skills
  • Learning agility/Information literacy/Intellectual autonomy and self-management skills
  • Communication/Collaboration including virtual collaboration/Social intelligence skills
  • Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

A common theme across the nine IRC skills forecasts was changing skill needs due to technological change, particularly regarding automation. Since the publications of the skills forecasts, the COVID-19 pandemic has, and continues, to impact all sectors of the broader manufacturing industry.

Against a backdrop of slowing economies and disrupted supply chains in response to COVID-19 restrictions, the effects of the pandemic renewed interest in manufacturing according to the CSIRO. In its Economic Outlook – Manufacturing, it highlighted the importance of local manufacturing noting the fragile supply chains but soaring global demand. As such, it argued innovative manufacturing can generate economic growth opportunities and equip the nation to better respond to future challenges, based on four key strategies:

  • Maximise local manufacturing capabilities
  • Produce and integrate superior componentry
  • Move toward sustainable and agile manufacturing
  • Adopt value-adding downstream processing of minerals.

In late 2020, the Australian Government released its Modern Manufacturing Strategy as part of its economic recovery response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Strategy aims to help manufacturers to scale-up, become more competitive and build more resilient supply chains. Investment is targeted to drive productivity and create jobs through six national manufacturing priority sectors, which reflect Australia’s competitive advantage.

The Strategy is supported by six National Manufacturing Priority Road Maps, each developed with industry through taskforces. These set out plans for industry and government to realise the Strategy and strengthen Australia’s manufacturing capability. The associated Manufacturing Modernisation Fund aims to address barriers to growth and innovation. As such it can be used to fast-track capital investment to take on new employees, upskill workers and invest in new technology to support Australia’s COVID-19 recovery.

In response to the Strategy, increasing changes in workforce skills requirements and ongoing disruption caused by COVID-19, the IBSA Group conducted an extensive series of research and consultation activities culminating in Scaling up: developing modern manufacturing through a skilled workforce.

This report draws together insights from industry leaders on the challenges facing the manufacturing sector and recommends skills-focused responses to support the development of a highly skilled workforce to underpin the future of manufacturing in Australia.

It also considers each Manufacturing sub-sector and reports how current industry qualifications support and relate to the modern manufacturing strategy priority sectors.

State and territory governments in Australia have also received economic recovery strategies that include responses focused on manufacturing sectors and/or investing in education and training that target specific workforce skills, for example, the New South Wales Government’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Strategy; Queensland’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan; Western Australia’s Recovery Plan Initiatives; and Tasmanian Advanced Manufacturing Plan 2024.  

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.


IRC and skills forecasts

Aerospace IRC

Furnishing IRC

Manufacturing and Engineering IRC

Process Manufacturing, Recreational Vehicles and Laboratory IRC

Sustainability IRC

Textile, Clothing and Footwear IRC


Relevant research

COVID-19 Economic Recovery Strategy – State of New South Wales (NSW Treasury)

Economic outlook – Manufacturing - CSIRO

Make it happen: The Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy – Australian Government. Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

Queensland Advanced Manufacturing 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan – State of Queensland, Depart of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning

Scaling Up: Developing Modern Manufacturing through a Skilled Workforce – IBSA Group

Tasmanian Advanced Manufacturing Action Plan 2024 – Tasmania. Department of State Growth

WA Recovery Plan Initiatives – Western Australia. Department of Premier and Cabinet


Industry associations and advisory bodies

Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre

ANZLAA – Australian and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association

Association for Manufacturing Excellence

Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers (ARPM)

Association for Sustainability in Business

Association of Rotational Moulders Australasia

Australasian Association for Clinical Biochemists

Australasian Bioplastics

Australasian Explosives Industry Safety Group

Australasian Furniture Association

Australasian Laboratory Managers Association

Australasian Piano Tuners and Technicians Association (APTTA)

Australasian Plastics and Rubber Institute Inc (APRI)

Australasian Timber Flooring Association

Australia New Zealand Industrial Gas Association

Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council

Australian and New Zealand Society of Blood Transfusion

Australian Cablemakers Association

Australian Fashion Council

Australian Fertiliser Services Association

Australian Glass and Window Association

Australian Helicopter Industry Association

Australian Hide, Skin and Leather Exporters Association

Australian Industry Group

Australian Institute of Medical and Clinical Scientists

Australian Manufacturing Technology Institute Limited (AMTIL)

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)

Australian Resilient Flooring Association (ARFA)

Australian Steel Institute

Australian Stone Advisory Association

Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council

Australian Sustainable Business Group

Australian Woodworking Industry Suppliers Association

Aviation Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Business Association (AMROBA)

Aviation/Aerospace Australia

Blind Manufacturers’ Association of Australia

Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia (BCSD Australia)

Cabinet Makers and Designers Association of Victoria (CMDA)

Caravan and Camping Industries Association of South Australia

Caravan Industry Association of Australia

Caravan Industry Association Western Australia

Caravanning Queensland

Caravan Industry Victoria

Caravan & Camping Industry Association NSW

Carpet Institute of Australia (CIA)

Cement Industry Federation

Cement, Concrete and Aggregates Australia

Chemistry Australia

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Composites Australia

Design Institute of Australia

Drycleaning Institute of Australia

Energy Efficiency Council

Engineers Australia

Facility Management Association of Australia

Floor Covering Institute of Australia

Getting to Sustainability

Jewellers Association of Australia

Kitchen and Bathroom Designers Institute

Laundry Association Australia

LEAN Enterprise Australia

Locksmiths Guild of Australia

Manufacturing Australia

Master Locksmiths Association of Australasia Limited

Millinery Association of Australia

Minerals Council of Australia

National Measurement Institute

National Precast Concrete Association Australia

National Security Screen Association

Picture Framers Guild of Australia

Plastics Industry Manufacturers of Australia

Queensland Interior Decorators Association

Regional Aviation Association of Australia

Science Industry Australia

Science Education Technicians Australia (SETA)

Specialised Textiles Association

Standards Australia

Sustainability Matters

The Fifth Estate

Vinyl Council of Australia

Watch and Clockmakers of Australia

Water Stewardship Australia

Western Australian Furniture Manufacturers Association

Window and Door Industry Council

Window Coverings Association of Australia


Employee associations

Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers’ Association

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU)

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)

Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU)

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU)

United Workers Union


Data sources and notes

Employment data has been extracted from Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, 

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training packages:

  • MEA Aeroskills
  • MEM Manufacturing and Engineering
  • MEM05 Metal and Engineering
  • MSA07 Manufacturing
  • MSF Furnishing
  • MSL Laboratory Operations
  • MSM Manufacturing
  • MSS Sustainability
  • MST Textiles, Clothing and Footwear
  • PMA Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining
  • PMB Plastics, Rubber and Cablemaking
  • PMC Manufactured Mineral Products.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Updated: 21 Jan 2022
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