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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.  

The ANZSIC classified Manufacturing industry employed approximately 1.1 million people in the year 2000, however this has declined to about 960,000 thousand in 2018 This represents 7.6% of all employed persons in 2018 as compared to 12.4% of all employed persons in 2000, at which time it was the largest single industry sector for employment (sixth largest in 2018).

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

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

IRC and skills forecasts

The IRC’s associated with this industry cluster were not required to submit an annual update to their 2019 Skills Forecasts during 2020.
As such, the version published in 2019 remains the most recently published Skills Forecast for these industries, with the exception of the Furnishing IRC, which last released a Skills Forecast in 2018.


Aerospace IRC

Furnishing IRC

Manufacturing and Engineering IRC

Process Manufacturing, Recreational Vehicles and Laboratory IRC

Sustainability IRC

Textile, Clothing and Footwear IRC

Industry cluster snapshot

There were approximately 104,730 program enrolments during 2019 in Manufacturing-related qualifications, down from around 128,170 in 2015. Program completions have also declined over the same period from approximately 42,330 during 2015 to around 31,740 in 2019. 

During 2019, qualifications from the MEM – Metal and Engineering Training Package accounted for 52% of all program enrolments in the Manufacturing and Related Services industry, with qualifications from the MSF – Furnishing Training Package accounting for a further 19% and qualifications from the MSM – Manufacturing Training Package 8%.

Enrolments in subjects delivered as part of a nationally recognised program have trended downwards from approximately 357,360 in 2015 to about 270,130 in 2019. Conversely, enrolments in subjects not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program have trended upwards, from approximately 141,080 in 2015 to about 173,820 in 2019.

Industry insights on skills needs

There are nine IRC skills forecasts for the Manufacturing and Related Services industry. 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 are:

  • 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 is changing skill needs due to technological change, particularly regarding automation. A report prepared by PwC for the Swinburne University of Technology, Transforming Australian Manufacturing: Preparing Businesses and Workplaces for Industry 4.0, states Australian manufacturing is progressively becoming focused on priority sectors and on high value, high quality products, which is changing the skills required of the workforce. Businesses require employees with critical thinking and higher-level problem-solving skills, and highly specialised skills in research, software engineering and data science. However, despite these changes within the industry and in employee conditions, manufacturing is not perceived as a stable or secure career path. The report also lists intelligent data analytics skills, digital literacy, advanced cognitive skills as emerging skill needs for new job roles within the industry.

Technological change, through the advance of robotics and automation, nanomaterials and big data and artificial intelligence and machine learning, will require more than ‘business as usual’ according to the authors of Beyond Business as Usual: A 21st Century Culture of Manufacturing in Australia. Through in-depth qualitative research with ten manufacturers based in New South Wales, they present evidence of a viable future for the industry by firms committed to just and sustainable manufacturing. Such a culture is more than smart and more than green (authors’ emphasis). By being ‘more than smart’, the authors state technological advancements are considered in terms of the importance of good jobs are considered alongside the demand for greater productivity and financial returns. ‘More than green’ refers to a focus on environmental sustainability at all stages of the production process and supply chain, as well as looking to the greenfield renewable energy sector and its associated new business opportunities. The authors conclude this culture is building viable firms with the capacity to withstand threats that could impact the sector as a whole.

Today, it is more common for companies to specialise in manufacturing specific components to feed into national or global supply chains than create entire finished products, according to the report Advanced Manufacturing: Ten Ways to Succeed in Australian Manufacturing – Insights from Peers, the Public and AMGC. Further, manufacturing facilities are becoming more high-tech, automated and interconnected. In response to these trends, Australia needs to accelerate the modernisation of its manufacturing industry to keep pace. However, there appears to be mismatch between opportunities to be found in the wider manufacturing industry and some negative perceptions. The AMGC’s report provides a more accurate picture of the industry and identifies key issues and potential solutions ‘Ten Ways to Succeed’.

Advanced manufacturing is a priority industry for the Commonwealth and state/territory governments. The Australian Government Department of Industry facilitates the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, and most of the jurisdictions have released strategies or roadmaps to promote growth for the industry (see the Relevant research section below).

For an analysis of skills needs for specific manufacturing sectors, please see the relevant sector pages.

COVID-19 impact

COVID-19 has, and continues, to have an unprecedented impact on Australia’s labour market, including the manufacturing industry and, in particular, some sub-sectors, such as Aviation as per Qantas’ announcement in June 2020. In its second report, the National Skills Commission shows the manufacturing industry recorded the second largest fall in employment over the period of February to August 2020, down 59,600 or 6.5% on pre-pandemic levels (based the latest available data at the time of publication).

Paradoxically, while manufacturing jobs were being lost, COVID-19 raised awareness of the importance of domestic manufacturing. Over four weeks in April and May 2020, the Australian Manufacturing Forum and @auManufacturing ran an ambitious campaign to crowd source from manufacturers a way forward for the industry. The grass roots campaign generated close to 50 substantial submissions, and wide engagement, which is summarised into A New Deal Plan for Manufacturing. It finds that COVID-19 revealed that while Australia’s manufacturing depth is thin, where it exists it is excellent, dynamic, globally competitive and provides good, solid ground for recovery. As such, the plan puts forward 11 recommendations, including a whole of industry workforce development plan that clarifies what work, knowledge, skill sand to what extent, when and where they are needed.

A Fair Share for Australian Manufacturing: Manufacturing Renewal for the Post-COVID Economy explores the strategic importance of manufacturing to Australia’s future prosperity. It finds that Australia ranks last in manufacturing self-sufficiency among all OECD countries. Australians use $565 billion worth of manufactures each year, however it produces $380 billon worth and Australians purchase and use more manufactured goods over time. As such, the author argues, national economic performance is undermined.

The report profiles the industry’s current status, highlighting Australia’s small value-added industries. It discusses in more detail several factors that have shaped Australia’s recent manufacturing performance, including: the nature of Australia’s international trade engagements, the state of the vocational education and training system, and new developments in energy altering traditional cost models. It describes broad principles of active industry policy and lists several specific measures that would build a stronger manufacturing sector.

In October 2020, the Australian Government released its whole-of-government Making it Happen: Modern Manufacturing Strategy, which it states is about backing an enterprise-led recovery. Its objective is to build scale and capture income in high-value areas of manufacturing where Australia either has established competitive strength or emerging priorities. As such, the strategy is designed around three components. First, to create a competitive business environment where Australian manufacturers can be more competitive. Second, to align resources to build scale in areas of competitive strength, and third to boost supply chain resilience. Areas identified of established competitive strength and emerging priority, the National Manufacturing Priorities, are the:

  • Resources technology and critical minerals processing
  • Food and beverage manufacturing
  • Medical products
  • Clean energy and recycling
  • Defence industry
  • Space industry.

The Government will partner with industry to immediately begin work developing road maps for each of the National Manufacturing Priorities which will build on existing sector plans. The Strategy is expected to deliver outcomes over the ten years.

Links and resources

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


Relevant research

Advancing Manufacturing 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan – Queensland. Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water

Advancing Victorian Manufacturing: A Blueprint for the Future – Victoria. Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

Beyond Business as Usual: A 21st Century Culture of Manufacturing in Australia – Katherine Gibson, Jenny Cameron, Stephen Healy and Joanne McNeill

Diversify WA – Western Australia. Department of Premier and Cabinet

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

Manufacturing Workforce Insights – South Australia. Training and Skills Commission

NSW Advanced Manufacturing Industry Development Strategy – New South Wales. Department of Industry

Skills Implementation Plan for Advanced Manufacturing – Queensland. Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water

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

Transforming Australian Manufacturing: Preparing Businesses and Workplaces for Industry 4.0 – PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)


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

Australasian Association of Clinical Biochemists

Australasian Bioplastics

Australasian Laboratory Managers Association

Australasian Piano Tuners and Technicians Association (APTTA)

Australasian Plastics and Rubber Institute Inc (APRI)

Australia New Zealand Industrial Gas Association

Australia Woodworking Industry Suppliers Association

Australian 3D Manufacturing Association (A3DMA)

Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council

Australian and New Zealand Society of Blood Transfusion

Australian Cablemakers Association

Australian Explosives Industry Safety Group

Australian Fashion Council

Australian Fertiliser Services Association

Australian Furniture Association

Australian Helicopter Industry Association

Australian Hide, Skin and Leather Exports Association

Australian Industry Group

Australian Institute of Medical 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 Timber Flooring Association

Australian Window 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)

Caravan and Camping Industries Association of South Australia

Caravan Industry Association of Australia

Caravan Industry Association Western Australia

Caravan Trade and Industries Association of Queensland

Caravan Trade and Industries Association of Victoria

Caravan & Camping Industry Association of NSW

Carpet Institute of Australia (CIA)

Cement Industry Federation

Cement, Concrete and Aggregates Australia

Centre for Sustainability Leadership

Chemistry Australia

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Composites Australia

Design Institute of Australia

Dry Cleaning Institute of Australia

Energy Efficiency Council

Engineers Australia

Facility Management Association

Floor Covering Institute of Australia

Furnishing Industry Association of Australia (FIAA)

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

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

Technical Textiles and Nonwoven Textiles Association

The Fifth Estate

Vinyl Council of Australia

Watch and Clockmakers of Australia

Water Stewardship Australia

Western Australia 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 The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), sex, state and territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 – EQ06, viewed 1 August 2020

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:

  • 2015 to 2019 program enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 subject enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 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: 15 Dec 2020
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