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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

The Process Manufacturing sector comprises numerous occupations, some of which are found in sectors outside of process manufacturing, for example, Production Managers, Management and Organisation Analysts and Science Technicians.

Overall, employment levels between 2002 and 2022 across Manufacturing Technology-related occupations were mixed. Over this period, levels grew strongly in Production Managers, and Management and Organisation Analysts, with further growth projected to 2026. The employment level also increased slightly in Other Factory Process Workers between 2002 and 2022 and is projected to rise to 2026. Employment levels decreased between 2002 and 2022 in Sheetmetal Trades Workers and Plastics and Rubber Factory Workers.

Across Process Plant Operations-related occupations employment levels increased between 2002 and 2022, although growth was stronger in some. Employment projections to 2026 indicate levels will increase in Production Managers, Science Technicians, and Chemical, Gas, Petroleum and Power Generation Plant Operators. The employment level to 2026 for Other Machine Operators is projected to decline.

Employment levels between 2002 and 2022 were mixed across Polymer Process Technology and Mineral Product Manufacturing-related occupations. Levels decreased over the period in Plastics and Rubber Factory Workers, and Clay, Concrete, Glass and Stone Processing Machine Operators, and employment levels are projected to decline to 2026. Between 2002 and 2022, employment levels increased in Other Building and Engineering Technicians and Other Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers. Projections to 2026 indicate employment levels will remain largely steady for Other Building and Engineering Technicians and decline for Other Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Overall, program enrolments declined in Process Manufacturing-related qualifications between 2017 and 2021, from approximately 12,510 to 9,620. Program completions remained almost stable from 5,830 in 2017 to about 5,790 in 2020, before a significant drop in 2021 to approximately 3,140.

More than four out of ten (43%) of program enrolments in Process Manufacturing-related qualifications were at certificate III level, and nearly three out of ten (29%) were at certificate IV level in 2021.

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

In 2021, program enrolments were concentrated in three qualification clusters, predominately in Polymer Processing Technology (59%), followed by Manufacturing Technology (26%) and Process Plant Operations (14%). The two most common intended occupations from Process Manufacturing qualifications-related qualifications were Factory Process Workers (not elsewhere specified) and Miscellaneous Factory Process Workers.

Approximately six out of ten (59%) program enrolments were delivered by private training providers in 2021, with a quarter (25%) delivered by TAFE institutes. However, there was considerable variation depending on the different qualification groupings. Process Manufacturing-related subject enrolments were predominantly Commonwealth and state funded (79%) in 2021, with domestic fee for service arrangements accounting for approximately 20%.

Queensland had the highest proportion of students enrolled (41%) in Process Manufacturing related qualifications in 2021, followed by Victoria (27%) and Western Australia (12%). Similarly, Queensland (41%) delivered the highest proportion of Process Manufacturing related qualifications in 2021, followed by Victoria (27%) and Western Australia (13%).

Apprenticeship and traineeship commencements declined significantly between 2012 and 2021, from approximately 9,330 to almost 1,350. Apprenticeship and traineeship completions also declined over the period, from about 5,960 to just over 480 in 2021. 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 (40%) in this sector in 2021, followed by New South Wales (20%) and Queensland (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 was the last skills forecast published by the IRC. It ranked generic skills, with Technology and Design mindset/thinking critically/systems thinking/solving problems skills as the most important. In determining key generic skills, the IRC suggested an approach that considers skills that would be most needed to support changing working practices and skill demands across the industry and then identify the skills that were 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, according to 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 of November 2022, the IRC reported it was undertaking further consultation with industry for the Process Manufacturing project. 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).

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.

The sector covered by this training package reported changing levels of demand from the resources sector, and environmental regulations and community concerns about the safety of some CHR processes which collectively had 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.

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, as plastic manufacturers outnumbered rubber and cablemaking manufacturers.

The PRC industry experienced rapid technological advances, according to the Skills Forecast. As such, industry identified VET qualifications and units needed to change to provide skills required by industry. Other trends specifically 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 and within Australia.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

National Skills Commission 2022, Occupation Employment Projections viewed 10 August 2022, https://www.nationalskillscommission.gov.au/topics/employment-projections

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2026
    • 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 2022, 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 2022, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2022

  • Employed total by ANZSCO, 2002 to 2022, 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:

  • 2017 to 2021 program enrolments
  • 2017 to 2021 program completions
  • 2021 subject enrolments.

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:

  • 2012 to 2021 commencements
  • 2012 to 2021 completions 
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2021 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.
Updated: 30 Nov 2022
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