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Overview

This page provides information and data on the Process Manufacturing sector, which is one component of the Manufacturing and Related Services industry.

Process manufacturing is the production of goods that are manufactured in bulk quantities from ingredients or raw substances, as opposed to goods manufactured in discrete and countable units from parts. The Process Manufacturing sector comprises a diverse range of sub-sectors including the processing of polymer, manufacturing of minerals, sourcing of raw materials and the process manufacturing of windows, doors, glass containers, food processing and others.

Nationally recognised training for the Process Manufacturing sector is delivered under the following training packages:

For other information on manufacturing and related services, visit the following cluster pages:

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

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

There are a variety of occupations that are relevant to employment in the Process Manufacturing sector. However, some of these occupations employ people in broader roles than those just relevant to process manufacturing, for example, Production Managers, Management and Organisation Analysts and Science Technicians. There are, though, some occupations that are more specific to process manufacturing.

Employment levels in a couple of Manufacturing Technology related occupations have grown, namely Production Managers and in particular Management and Organisation Analysts, which has more than doubled from 33,900 in 2001 to 100,700 in 2021. Further growth is projected between 2021 and 2025 in this occupation. Other occupations, however, have experienced declining employment levels between 2001 and 2021, such as Sheetmetal Trades Workers and Plastics and Rubber Factory Workers. Employment levels are projected to increase slightly for both occupations by 2025.

In the sub-sector of Process Plant Operations, employment levels of all occupations have increased over the twenty years between 2001 and 2021, although some have experienced sizable fluctuations, most notably Science Technicians. Employment projections to 2025 indicate levels will decline in Production Managers, Science Technicians, and Chemical, Gas, Petroleum and Power Generation Plant Operators. The employment level for Other Machine Operators is projected to increase between 2021 and 2025 to 17,600.

In Polymer Process Technology and Mineral Product Manufacturing, overall employment levels in the occupation groups Other Building and Engineering Technicians, and Other Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers have increased between 2001 and 2021. In the other occupation groupings, namely Clay, Concrete, Glass and Stone Processing Machine Operators, and Plastics and Rubber Factory Workers overall employment levels have declined between 2001 and 2021. Employment projections to 2025 indicate levels will grow slightly in all but Other Building and Engineering Technicians, which is projected to decline.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Overall, program enrolments have declined in Process Manufacturing-related qualifications between 2016 and 2020, from approximately 12,620 to 11,230. Program completions have fluctuated, from approximately 4,790 in 2016, to a peak of 5,830 in 2017. In 2020, there were more than 5,670 completions.

The total numbers of program enrolments are an agglomeration of activity from four training packages. These largely align to the qualification clusters shown in the charts. The exception is Polymer Processing Technology which also includes, in addition to qualifications from the PMB – Plastics, Rubber and Cablemaking Training Package, qualifications in process manufacturing from the MSA/MSM – Manufacturing Training Package.

Approximately 60% of program enrolments in Process Manufacturing related qualifications were at Certificate III level, and about 19% were at Certificate IV level in 2020. Further, program enrolments are concentrated in three qualification clusters, predominately in Polymer Processing Technology (63%), followed by Manufacturing Technology (21%) and Process Plant Operations (15%). The most two most common intended occupations from Process Manufacturing qualifications-related qualifications are Miscellaneous Factory Process Workers and Factory Process Workers (not elsewhere specified).

Overall, approximately two-thirds of program enrolments were delivered through private training providers in 2020, followed by TAFE institutes (about 20%). However, there was considerable variation depending on the different qualification groupings. About 85% of Process Manufacturing related subject enrolments were government funded, with the rest largely funded through domestic fee for service arrangements.

Queensland had the highest proportion of students enrolled (59%) in Process Manufacturing related qualifications in 2020, followed by Victoria (19%). Similarly, more Process Manufacturing related qualifications were delivered in Queensland (60%) than other states and territories, followed by Victoria (19%).

Apprenticeship and traineeship commencements have declined signification between 2011 and 2020, from more than 9,890 to 1,280. They reached their lowest level (690) in 2016. Apprenticeship and traineeship completions fluctuated between 2011 and 2020, peaking in 2013 at approximately 6,270 before declining to about 390 in 2020. The most common intended occupations from apprenticeships and traineeships in this sector were Factory Process Workers (not elsewhere specified), Chemical Plant Operator, and Miscellaneous Factory Process Workers. Victoria had the highest proportion of apprentices and trainees in training (36%) in this sector in 2020, followed by Queensland (17%), New South Wales (16%) and Western Australia (15%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

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 Process Manufacturing, Recreational Vehicles and Laboratory IRC’s Skills Forecast and Proposed Schedule of Work 2019-2023 ranked generic skills, with Technology and Design mindset/thinking critically/systems thinking/solving problems skills as the most important. It suggested that considering generic skills most needed to support changing working practices and skill demands across the industry and then identify what skills are a priority for different types of work roles.

According to the Skills Forecast and Proposed Schedule of Work 2019-2023, generic skills, such as problem solving, as well as the willingness and ability to absorb new learning and apply new skill in new roles to new technology were seen as very important for adapting to the rapid pace of change across the industry.

Workforce challenges and opportunities - MSM Manufacturing Training Package

The most significant challenge and opportunity across the sectors covered by the MSM Manufacturing Training Package qualifications and skill sets, as reported in the 2019 Skills Forecast, related to changing technology and increasing levels of automation. Other challenges and opportunities raised were sustainable manufacturing both in terms of business models and processes and the manufacture of sustainable products; changes in business models and practices arising from other factors, such as cheap imports; and regulation and standards. On the supply side, the impact of technological disruption, labour and skill shortages and the use of micro-credentials were raised.

As at December 2021, the Process Manufacturing project is underway, with IRC undertaking further consultation with industry. The rationale of the project is to update training products to reflect changes in jobs roles (lean manufacturing, sustainable practices, automation and advanced manufacturing processes) and to changes needed to respond to the Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy, released in late 2020.

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.

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 proposes skills-focused responses to support the development of a highly skilled workforce to underpin the future of manufacturing in Australia. In relation to Process Manufacturing, report states how current industry qualifications support and relate to the modern manufacturing strategy priority sectors, particularly the Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing and the Food and Beverage priority sectors.

Workforce challenges and opportunities – PMA Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining Training Package

The IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast and Proposed Schedule of Work 2019-2023 for the PMA Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining Training Package noted the result of increasing automation in larger CHR businesses and increasing competition from overseas competitors would likely result in decreasing employee numbers.

Further, the sector covered by this training package reported changing levels of demand from the resources sector, environmental regulations and community concerns about the safety of some CHR processes collectively have an impact on workforce demand for skills. The growing use of remote operations in the oil and gas sector was also a key issue in that sector.

As outlined above, the Australian Government released the Modern Manufacturing Strategy in late 2020. Sub-sectors of this industry are key to the Strategy, with gas supply positioned as a key foundational component to beneficial economic conditions to support other manufacturers. Gas supply is also critical input to chemicals and fertiliser production, according to the Strategy. As per above, the IBSA Group has identified how Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining sectors support the modern manufacturing strategy priority sectors.

As of the end of 2021, the IRC has completed the project restructuring the Certificate III in Process Plant Operations to integrate several specialisations. At this time, no other projects are underway for this training package.

Workforce challenges and opportunities – PMB Plastics, Rubber and Cablemaking Training Package

According to the IRC’s Skills Forecast and Proposed Schedule of Work 2019-2023 for the PMB Plastics, Rubber and Cablemaking (PRC) Training Package, the industry was increasingly focused on polymer product (plastic) manufacturing, with plastic manufacturers outnumbered rubber and cablemaking manufacturers.

Technological advances have been rapid in the PRC industry, according to the Skills Forecast. As such, industry identified VET qualifications and units needed changes to provide skills required by industry. Other specific trends facing the plastics sector of the industry were changing consumer sentiment to plastics, especially plastic packaging and ‘single-use’ plastics, with bans coming into effect overseas. On 1 March 2021, South Australia banned single-use plastics, namely plastic straws cutlery and stirrer and will extend the ban to the sale, supply and distribution of polystyrene cups, bowls, plates, clamshell containers and oxo-degradable plastic products on 1 March 2022.

As outlined above, the Australian Government released the Modern Manufacturing Strategy in late 2020. Sub-sectors of this industry are key to the six national manufacturing priority sectors. As per above, the IBSA Group has identified how Plastics, Rubber and Cablemaking sectors support the modern manufacturing strategy priority sectors.

As of December 2021, the IRC has completed the project to review skills for the Polymer Industry Project. At this time, no other projects are underway for this training package.

Links and resources

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

IRC and skills forecasts

 

Relevant research

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

Process Manufacturing project – IBSA Group

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

The nest steps for South Australia’s single-use plastic ban (media release) – Premier of South Australia

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers (ARPM)

Association of Rotational Moulders Australasia

Australasian Bioplastics

Australasian Plastics and Rubber Institute Inc (APRI)

Australia New Zealand Industrial Gas Association

Australian Cablemakers Association

Australasian Explosives Industry Safety Group

Australian Fertiliser Services Association

Australian Steel Institute

Australian Stone Advisory Association

Cement Industry Federation

Cement, Concrete and Aggregates Australia

Chemistry Australia

Composites Australia

Manufacturing Australia

Minerals Council of Australia

National Precast Concrete Association Australia

Plastics Industry Manufacturers of Australia

Vinyl Council of Australia

 

Employee associations

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union

Australian Workers’ Union

United Workers Union

 

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021 Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal  

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • 1335 Production Managers
    • 2247 Management and Organisation Analysts
    • 3114 Science Technicians
    • 3129 Other Building and Engineering Technicians
    • 3222 Sheetmetal Trades Workers
    • 3992 Chemical, Gas, Petroleum and Power Generation Plant Operators
    • 3999 Other Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers
    • 7111 Clay, Concrete, Glass and Stone Processing Machine Operators
    • 7119 Other Machine Operators
    • 8392 Plastics and Rubber Factory Workers
    • 8399 Other Factory Process Workers.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSCO, 2001 to 2021, May Quarter
    • 1335 Production Managers
    • 2247 Management and Organisation Analysts
    • 3114 Science Technicians
    • 3129 Other Building and Engineering Technicians
    • 3222 Sheetmetal Trades Workers
    • 3992 Chemical, Gas, Petroleum and Power Generation Plant Operators
    • 3999 Other Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers
    • 7111 Clay, Concrete, Glass and Stone Processing Machine Operators
    • 7119 Other Machine Operators
    • 8392 Plastics and Rubber Factory Workers
    • 8399 Other Factory Process Workers.

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

  • MSA – Manufacturing Training package
  • MSM – Manufacturing Training Package
  • PMA – Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining Training Package
  • PMB – Plastics, Rubber and Cablemaking Training Package
  • PMC – Manufactured Mineral Products Training Package.

The qualifications have been grouped under the following headings:

  • Manufacturing Technology
    • MCM20105 - Certificate II in Manufacturing Technology
    • MSA10107 - Certificate I in Manufacturing (Pathways)
    • MSA20208 - Certificate II in Manufacturing Technology
    • MSA30208 - Certificate III in Manufacturing Technology
    • MSA40108 - Certificate IV in Manufacturing Technology
    • MSA50108 - Diploma of Manufacturing Technology
    • MSA60108 - Advanced Diploma of Manufacturing Technology
    • MSM10216 - Certificate I in Manufacturing (Pathways)
    • MSM20216 - Certificate II in Manufacturing Technology.
  • Mineral product manufacturing and refractories engineering
    • MSM30318 - Certificate III in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC10104 - Certificate I in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC10199 - Certificate I in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC20104 - Certificate II in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC20110 - Certificate II in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC20116 - Certificate II in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC20199 - Certificate II in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC30104 - Certificate III in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC30110 - Certificate III in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC30116 - Certificate III in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC30199 - Certificate III in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC40104 - Certificate IV in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC40110 - Certificate IV in Manufactured Mineral Products
    • PMC40116 - Certificate IV in Manufactured Mineral Products.
  • Polymer processing technology
    • MSA10207 - Certificate I in Process Manufacturing
    • MSA20107 - Certificate II in Process Manufacturing
    • MSA30107 - Certificate III in Process Manufacturing
    • MSA30309 - Certificate III in Surface Preparation and Coating Application
    • MSA40311 - Certificate IV in Process Manufacturing
    • MSM10116 - Certificate I in Process Manufacturing
    • MSM20116 - Certificate II in Process Manufacturing
    • MSM30116 - Certificate III in Process Manufacturing
    • MSM30216 - Certificate III in Surface Preparation and Coating Application
    • MSM40116 - Certificate IV in Process Manufacturing
    • PMB20107 - Certificate II in Polymer Processing
    • PMB20116 - Certificate II in Polymer Processing
    • PMB20121 - Certificate II in Polymer Processing
    • PMB30107 - Certificate III in Polymer Processing
    • PMB30116 - Certificate III in Polymer Processing
    • PMB30121 - Certificate III in Polymer Processing
    • PMB40107 - Certificate IV in Polymer Technology
    • PMB40116 - Certificate IV in Polymer Technology
    • PMB40121 - Certificate IV in Polymer Technology
    • PMB50101 - Diploma of Polymer Technology
    • PMB50107 - Diploma of Polymer Technology
    • PMB50116 - Diploma of Polymer Technology
    • PMB50121 - Diploma of Polymer Technology
    • PMB60101 - Advanced Diploma of Polymer Technology
    • PMB60107 - Advanced Diploma of Polymer Technology
    • PMB60116 - Advanced Diploma of Polymer Technology.
  • Process plant operations
    • PMA20102 - Certificate II in Process Plant Operations
    • PMA20108 - Certificate II in Process Plant Operations
    • PMA20113 - Certificate II in Process Plant Operations
    • PMA20116 - Certificate II in Process Plant Operations
    • PMA30102 - Certificate III in Process Plant Operations
    • PMA30108 - Certificate III in Process Plant Operations
    • PMA30113 - Certificate III in Process Plant Operations
    • PMA30116 - Certificate III in Process Plant Operations
    • PMA30120 - Certificate III in Process Plant Operations
    • PMA30198 - Certificate III in Process Plant Operations
    • PMA40102 - Certificate IV in Process Plant Technology
    • PMA40108 - Certificate IV in Process Plant Technology
    • PMA40113 - Certificate IV in Process Plant Technology
    • PMA40116 - Certificate IV in Process Plant Technology
    • PMA40198 - Certificate IV in Process Plant Technology
    • PMA50102 - Diploma of Process Plant Technology
    • PMA50108 - Diploma of Process Plant Technology
    • PMA50116 - Diploma of Process Plant Technology
    • PMA60102 - Advanced Diploma of Process Plant Technology
    • PMA60108 - Advanced Diploma of Process Plant Technology
    • PMA60116 - Advanced Diploma of Process Plant Technology.

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. 

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%.

Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions 
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.
Updated: 21 Jan 2022
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