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Metal, Engineering and Boating Industries

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Metal, Engineering and Boating industries, which is a component of the broader Manufacturing industry.

Metals, Engineering and Boating is a diverse industry that employed 192,000 people in the machinery and equipment and 135,000 in the metal products sectors at August 2018. It includes people from the initial conceiving and designing phase of products, through to manufacture, assembly, installation, repair, packaging, and selling manufactured products. Coverage includes most of the sub-sectors or ‘classes’ within the following Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) subdivisions and groups:

  • Primary Metal and Metal Product Manufacturing
  • Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing – Including Key and Lock Manufacturing
  • Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing
  • Repair and Maintenance – Including Watch and Clock Service and Repair, and Key Duplication
  • Other Transport Equipment Manufacturing – Including Shipbuilding and Boatbuilding
  • Other Manufacturing – Including Jewellery and Silverware Manufacturing.

People with metal and engineering skills do, however, work across other industries not captured in those listed above such as construction, mining, agriculture, health, food, and hospitality.

Nationally recognised training for the Metal, Engineering and Boating industries is delivered under the MEM – Manufacturing and Engineering Training Package and MEM05 – Metal and Engineering Training Package.

For information on other manufacturing industry sectors please visit the following cluster pages:

Information sourced from the Manufacturing and Engineering IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

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

IRC and skills forecasts

The Manufacturing and Engineering IRC was not required to submit an annual update to their 2019 Skills Forecast during 2020. As such, the version published in 2019 remains the most recently published Skills Forecast for this industry.

Employment trends

Please note: any employment projections outlined below were calculated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics prior to COVID-19.

Employment snapshot

There has been quite a degree of fluctuation in employment numbers between 2000 and 2020 for the various sectors of the Metal, Engineering and Boating industry. For all sectors employment levels were lower in 2020 than they were in 2000. It should also be noted the industry employment numbers do not represent all those employed in metals and engineering as they are also employed across other industry sectors.

Employment levels in Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing and Machinery and Equipment Repair and Maintenance are projected to rise between 2020 and 2024 and remain relatively stable in Primary Metal and Metal Product Manufacturing. Employment levels in Transport Equipment Manufacturing and Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing are expected to decline between 2020 and 2024.

Most of the occupations in the Transport Equipment Manufacturing sector are predicted to see an increase in employment between 2020 and 2024, except for Boat Builders and Shipwrights predicted to decline by almost 1%.

Employment numbers in three of the occupations in the Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing sector, namely Structural Steel and Welding Trades Workers, Metal Fitters and Machinists, and Metal Engineering Process Workers, are predicted to increase by 2024. The strongest growth is predicted for Metal Engineering Process Workers at around 8%. A decline is predicted in two sectors, with Engineering Production Workers predicted to decline by about 11%. Employment levels by 2024 in Production Managers are projected to decline less than 1% and remain the same for Industrial Spraypainters.

Employment numbers in three of the occupations in the Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing sector, namely, Metal Fitters and Machinists, Structural Steel and Welding Trades Workers and Electricians are predicted to increase by 2024. The strongest growth is predicted for Electricians at almost 5%. A decline is predicted in the other three sectors, with Product Assemblers predicted to decline by almost 3%, with Industrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers and Production Managers by around 1% and under 1% respectively.

Employment levels in almost all occupations in the Machinery and Equipment Repair and Maintenance sector are predicted to increase between 2020 and 2024, with the largest increase (just over 6%) projected for Precision Metal Trades Workers. The exception is Electronics Trades Workers, which is predicted to decline by 5%.

Most occupations in the Primary Metal and Metal Product Manufacturing sector are predicted to increase in employment between 2019 and 2024, with Metal Engineering Process Workers projected to rise nearly 8%. The exceptions are Engineering Production Workers and Production Managers which are predicted to decline by nearly 11% and less than 1% respectively.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Between 2015 and 2019, both program enrolments and completions trended downwards, with numbers declining to just under 54,610 and 13,290 respectively. Over three-quarters of program enrolments were at Certificate II (33%) and Certificate III (44%) levels in 2019 and were concentrated in Engineering Trades (49%) and Engineering Pathways (42%).

The most common intended occupation for Engineering Trades was Mechanical Engineering Trades Workers, followed by Sheetmetal Trades Worker and for Engineering Pathways the intended occupation was Metal Engineering Process Worker.

In 2019, approximately six out of ten (61%) enrolments in qualifications related to this industry were delivered by TAFE institutes, about a quarter (24%) were delivered by private training providers and schools delivered 9%. The proportions of qualifications delivered by providers varied. For example, 68% of Engineering Trades qualifications were delivered by TAFE institutes and 24% were delivered by private training providers. Conversely, 67% of Engineering Production qualifications were delivered by private training providers and 33% by TAFE institutes. Over three-quarters of subjects (76%) were government funded and 13% were funded by domestic fee for service arrangements.

Nearly two-fifths of students enrolled in Metal, Engineering and Boating industry-related programs reported they resided in Queensland (37%), followed by 17% of students reporting they lived in New South Wales, and 13% each in Victoria and Western Australia. Similarly, nearly two-fifths of program enrolments were reported by Queensland (39%), followed by 19% in Western Australia and 17% in both Victoria and New South Wales.

There were 7,790 apprenticeship and traineeship commencements during 2019, an increase on the previous year, however numbers remain well below the levels reported between 2010 and 2012. Completions decreased to the second lowest reported total of 4,250 in 2019. Most of the apprenticeships and traineeships were aimed at the intended occupations of Sheetmetal Trades Worker and Mechanical Engineering Trades Workers. As at December 2019, the largest amount of apprenticeship activity was reported by Queensland (30%), following by New South Wales (26%), Western Australia (19%) and Victoria (14%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The Manufacturing and Engineering IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast identified a number of current and emerging skill needs for the sector. The top priority skills include planning, scheduling, logistics and supply chain management. Higher level technician skills, maintenance and diagnostics skills, mechatronics and non-destructive testing (NDT) were identified as top priority industry and occupation skills.

In addition, the five most important generic skills were listed as:

  • Technology
  • Design mindset/Thinking critically/Systems thinking/Solving problems skills
  • Learning agility/Information literacy/Intellectual autonomy and self-management skills
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) skills
  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) (Foundation skills).

The workforce challenges and opportunities driving these skill development priorities include:

  • Skills shortages in occupations such as locksmiths, Sheetmetal trades workers and structural steel and welding trades workers, with recruitment difficulties regarding STEM skills, automation, big data and artificial intelligence
  • New Defence projects – engineering-related skills will be in demand, with projects to continue for the next 50 years. A Naval Shipbuilding IRC has been established to ensure the VET system is meeting the specific skill needs of the sector, with PwC Skills for Australia as the Skills Service Organisation (SSO)
  • Changing technology – automation, robotics, sensors, data analytics, advanced materials, additive manufacturing and augmented and virtual reality are impacting on the ways in which work is conducted, as well as providing new business opportunities
  • Changing business models – development of integrated solutions and producing high-value added whole products, and services, specialisations that increase the level of collaboration with other businesses within the supply chain
  • Sustainability – an increased focus on sustainability is driving innovation in product design and development, as well as a focus on continuous improvement of processes and practices to improve efficiency and productivity
  • Attracting new workers - changing work and career values are a challenge for the industry and there is a need to change perceptions of the industry to reflect modern manufacturing environments which are focused on continuous improvement and innovation.

According to the job vacancy data, the top requested skills by employers were communication and planning skills, with Sales Representatives and Fitter (General) the most advertised occupations. The top employers were Cummins Incorporated, Dell Incorporated, Broadspectrum Pty Limited, Hitachi Group and Liebherr-Australia Pty Ltd.

The Manufacturing and Engineering IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast reports that the Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI) shows Australia’s manufacturing industry is now growing following several years of falls. There are however differences within the subsectors of Manufacturing and Engineering-related qualifications, such as:

  • The shipbuilding sector has experienced significant revenue growth and is projected to continue to grow over the next five years, driven by demand from Defence, with planned projects for the Collins-class submarine replacement, Anzac-class frigate fleet replacement and Offshore Patrol Vessels, and niche markets such as high-speed catamarans
  • The boatbuilding sector has been in decline in Australia over the past five years and is projected to continue to decline, however the projected decreased demand for ‘luxury’ vessels is predicted to be partially offset by increased demand for the repair of existing boats and for smaller, more affordable vessels
  • The Defence sector is entering an extended period of growth with significant building projects such building combat reconnaissance vehicles over the next 15 years
  • Despite Australian demand for Swiss watches (as opposed to digital and ‘smart’ watches) growing by 11% over the past two years, a decline in the supply of skilled watch and clock makers and repairers and unavailability of spare parts from watch manufacturers is leading to a decline in the availability of repair services
  • Declining gold and silver prices are resulting in small but steady growth in the jewellery manufacture sector with increased demand for handmade and custom-made jewellery.

Primarily due to its relationship with Defence, the manufacturing and engineering sector is a priority for the Commonwealth and state governments. The Naval Shipbuilding Plan outlines the Government’s vision for the Australian naval shipbuilding enterprise and the significant investment required in coming decades. The Naval Shipbuilding College, which features strongly in the Defence Industry Skilling and STEM Strategy, will identify and close gaps between the educational and training courses currently offered in Australia, and the required skills and expertise needed by the growing Australian shipbuilding industry. The Australian government Department of Defence has also released a Naval Shipbuilding Strategic Workforce Discussion Paper to provide an overview of the workforce needs of the national naval shipbuilding enterprise and where the workforce is likely to come from. The Queensland government has prepared a Queensland Superyacht Strategy and Austrade has released Australia’s Capability in Commercial Shipbuilding and Services to generate international interest and growth in the shipbuilding and boatbuilding sectors. Further examples of government strategies and planning are included in the relevant research section below.

Links and resources

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

 

Relevant research

Australia’s Capability in Commercial Shipbuilding and Services - Austrade

Defence Industrial Capability Plan – Australian Department of Defence

Defence Industry Skilling and STEM Strategy – Australian Department of Defence

Defence Technologies: Sector Strategy – Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources

Naval Shipbuilding Plan – Australian Department of Defence

Naval Shipbuilding Strategic Workforce Discussion Paper – Australian Department of Defence

New South Wales: Strong, Smart and Connected: The NSW Government Defence and Industry Strategy 2017 – New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

Queensland defence industries roadmap – Queensland Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning

Queensland Superyacht Strategy – Queensland Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning

South Australian Defence Industry Workforce & Skills Strategy 2018-2022 – South Australian Defence SA

Western Australian Defence and Defence Industries Strategic Plan – Western Australian Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre

Australian Industry Group

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)

Engineers Australia

Jewellers Association of Australia

Locksmiths Guild of Australia

Manufacturing Australia

Master Locksmiths Association of Australasia Limited

Watch and Clockmakers of Australia

 

Employee associations

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU)

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)

Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2020, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal  

  • by ANZSIC 2- and 3-digit industries, employment projections to May 2024
    • 21 Primary Metal and Metal Product Manufacturing
    • 22 Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing
    • 23 Transport Equipment Manufacturing (less 231 Motor Vehicle and Motor Vehicle Part Manufacturing)
    • 24 Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing
    • 942 Machinery and Equipment Repair and Maintenance.

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, https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202020?OpenDocument

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 2- and 3-digit industries, 2000 to 2020, May Quarter
    • 21 Primary Metal and Metal Product Manufacturing
    • 22 Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing
    • 23 Transport Equipment Manufacturing (less 231 Motor Vehicle and Motor Vehicle Part Manufacturing)
    • 24 Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing
    • 942 Machinery and Equipment Repair and Maintenance.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 2- and 3-digit industries (as per above), and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET students and courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • MEM – Manufacturing and Engineering Training Package; MEM05 – Metal and Engineering Training Package.
  • Boating Services
    • MEM10205 - Certificate I in Boating Services
    • MEM20303 - Certificate II in Boating Services
    • MEM20305 - Certificate II in Boating Services
    • MEM30905 - Certificate III in Boating Services
    • MEM40203 - Certificate IV in Boating Services
    • MEM40205 - Certificate IV in Boating Services.
  • Engineering Pathways
    • MEM10105 - Certificate I in Engineering
    • MEM20105 - Certificate II in Engineering
    • MEM20198 - Certificate II in Engineering - Production
    • MEM20205 - Certificate II in Engineering - Production Technology
    • MEM20298 - Certificate II in Engineering - Production Technology
    • MEM20413 - Certificate II in Engineering Pathways.
  • Engineering Production
    • MEM30105 - Certificate III in Engineering - Production Systems
    • MEM30198 - Certificate III in Engineering - Production Systems.
  • Engineering Technical
    • MEM30505 - Certificate III in Engineering - Technical
    • MEM30598 - Certificate III in Engineering - Technician
    • MEM40412 - Certificate IV in Engineering Drafting
    • MEM50205 - Diploma of Engineering - Technical
    • MEM50211 - Diploma of Engineering - Technical
    • MEM50212 - Diploma of Engineering - Technical
    • MEM60105 - Advanced Diploma of Engineering
    • MEM60111 - Advanced Diploma of Engineering
    • MEM60112 - Advanced Diploma of Engineering
    • MEM80112 - Graduate Diploma of Engineering.
  • Engineering Trades
    • MEM30205 - Certificate III in Engineering - Mechanical Trade
    • MEM30219 – Certificate III in Engineering – Mechanical Trade
    • MEM30298 - Certificate III in Engineering - Mechanical Trade
    • MEM30305 - Certificate III in Engineering - Fabrication Trade
    • MEM30319 – Certificate III in Engineering – Fabrication Trade
    • MEM30398 - Certificate III in Engineering - Fabrication Trade
    • MEM30405 - Certificate III in Engineering - Electrical/Electronic Trade
    • MEM30498 - Certificate III in Engineering - Electrical/Electronic Trade
    • MEM30705 - Certificate III in Marine Craft Construction
    • MEM30805 - Certificate III in Locksmithing
    • MEM31010 - Certificate III in Watch and Clock Service and Repair
    • MEM31112 - Certificate III in Engineering - Composites Trade
    • MEM31215 - Certificate III in Engineering - Industrial Electrician
    • MEM31419 – Certificate III in Engineering – Fixed and Mobile Plant Mechanic
    • MEM40103 - Certificate IV in Engineering
    • MEM40105 - Certificate IV in Engineering
    • MEM40119 – Certificate IV in Engineering
    • MEM40198 - Certificate IV in Engineering - Higher Engineering Trade
    • MEM50105 - Diploma of Engineering - Advanced Trade
    • MEM50119 – Diploma of Engineering – Advanced Trade.
  • Jewellery Manufacture and Design
    • MEM30605 - Certificate III in Jewellery Manufacture
    • MEM30619 – Certificate III in Jewellery Manufacture
    • MEM30803 - Certificate III in Jewellery Manufacture
    • MEM40311 - Certificate IV in Advanced Jewellery Manufacture
    • MEM50311 - Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design
    • MEM60211 - Advanced Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design.

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. 

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

MEM Manufacturing and Engineering Training Package; and MEM05 Metal and Engineering Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2019 commencements
  • 2010 to 2019 completions 
  • 2019 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2019 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority and generic skills data have been extracted from the Manufacturing and Engineering IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2020, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2020, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2016 and June 2019 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
    • 21 Primary Metal and Metal Product Manufacturing
    • 22 Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing
    • 23 Transport Equipment Manufacturing (excluding 2313 Automotive Electrical Components Manufacturing; 2311 Motor Vehicle Manufacturing; 2312 Motor Vehicle Body and Trailer Manufacturing; 2319 Other Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturing)
    • 24 Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing
    • 9421 Domestic Appliance Repair and Maintenance
    • 9422 Electronic (except Domestic Appliance) and Precision Equipment Repair and Maintenance
    • 9429 Other Machinery and Equipment Repair and Maintenance
    • ANZSCO major groups excluding Clerical and Administrative Workers; Professionals; Managers; Community and Personal Service Workers.
  • Employers
    • 6113 Sales Representatives
    • 3212 Motor Mechanics
    • 3232 Metal Fitters and Machinists
    • 3129 Other Building and Engineering Technicians
    • 3411 Electricians
    • 21 Primary Metal and Metal Product Manufacturing
    • 22 Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing
    • 23 Transport Equipment Manufacturing (excluding 2313 Automotive Electrical Components Manufacturing; 2311 Motor Vehicle Manufacturing; 2312 Motor Vehicle Body and Trailer Manufacturing; 2319 Other Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturing)
    • 24 Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing
    • 9421 Domestic Appliance Repair and Maintenance
    • 9422 Electronic (except Domestic Appliance) and Precision Equipment Repair and Maintenance
    • 9429 Other Machinery and Equipment Repair and Maintenance.

Please note: any employment projections outlined below were calculated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics prior to COVID-19.

Updated: 16 Dec 2020
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