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Overview

This page provides information and data on Sustainability which covers a set of cross industry systems and practices.

Sustainability is a broad term used to cover a set of cross industry business and environmental practices, aimed at improving the long-term viability of businesses. While Sustainability is not an industry sector, sustainable business practices are becoming increasingly common place across most industries. Sustainability aims to benefit businesses and the environment by improving productivity and efficiency through embedding sustainable operations, environmental monitoring and technology, and competitive systems and practices. There are many areas a business might achieve sustainability improvements, for example, low cost energy, water-saving devices and behavioural change can have a high impact.

Vocational education and training (VET) is required for Sustainability-related occupations such as:

  • Management and Organisation Analysts
  • Engineering Production Workers.

Nationally recognised training for Sustainability is delivered under the MSS – Sustainability Training Package.

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

Employment trends

As Sustainability is not an industry in its own right, there is insufficient data on employment to provide an analysis of employment trends.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Sustainability-related qualifications have declined by approximately 70% between 2016 and 2020, from 13,090 to 3,800 in 2020. Program completions have also declined significantly from approximately 4,500 in 2016 to about 960. Over half (51%) of program enrolments were at Certificate IV level and over a third (36%) were at Certificate III level in 2020, and 93% were in Competitive Systems and Practices. The main intended occupation from training in Sustainability-related qualifications was Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers.

The majority of training in this sector was delivered by private training providers(approximately 95%) in 2020. About 70% of Sustainability-related subject enrolments in private providers were funded by Commonwealth and state governments. Overall, about 71% of all subject enrolments in this sector were government funded, with the remaining 29% privately funded (domestic and international fee for service).

Victoria had the highest proportion of students enrolled in Sustainability-related qualifications (62%) in 2020, followed by Queensland (12%) and New South Wales (10%). Similarly, 63% of training was delivered in Victoria, 16% in Queensland, 10% in New South Wales.

There was a significant increase in the number of apprenticeship and traineeship commencements in 2020 compared with 2019, to approximately 1,150 from 530. Overall, the number of commencements has declined between 2011 and 2020. The number of completions continued to decline, from approximately 470 in 2019 to 150 in 2020. Overall, the number of completions has decreased significantly between 2011 and 2020. The most common intended occupation (91%) of apprenticeships and traineeships in this sector was Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers. Victoria had the highest proportion of apprentices and trainees in training (54%) in 2020, followed by Tasmania (12%) and South Australia (10%).

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

Sustainability is a discipline that underpins or comprises work across a very broad range of industries as outlined above, making these skills much more cross sectoral in nature according to the IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast and Proposed Schedule of Work 2019-2023. While it ranked key categories of generic skills, with systems thinking/solving problems skills being the most important, it noted there was growing demand for certain generic skills across industries using the MSS Sustainability qualification, including problem solving, design thinking, leadership, change management and innovation management.

Further, the Skills Forecast and Proposed Schedule of Work 2019-2023 identified workforce challenges and opportunities relating to energy costs and energy security, the rise of the circular economy, technology changes and new business models were impacting the sectors that were likely to use qualifications from the MSS Sustainability Training Package. These were resulting in new and emerging skill development priorities, including:

  • Skills to meet emerging technological changes in competitive systems and practices
  • Skills to address emerging job roles in environmental monitoring and technology
  • Generic skills, such as problem solving, design thinking, leadership, change management and innovation management.

Following consideration and analysis of the industry challenges and opportunities, then current and emerging skills, the Sustainability IRC identified several areas for training product development over the immediate term (2019-2020), over the next three years and future priorities. The training priorities determined to occur between 2019 and 2022 were focused on:

  • Environmental monitoring and technology: updating and development of new units, skill sets and qualifications to support emerging job roles, new technologies and training gaps
  • Sustainable operations: reviewing Sustainability qualifications and units to align with current job roles and to reflect current terminology and practices in this area of practice.

In 2018, the National Waste Policy set the agenda for waste reduction to 2030 and in 2019 the Australian Government released the 2019 National Waste Policy Action Plan, which includes targets and actions that guide investment and national efforts to 2030.

Among the targets are banning the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres; reducing total waste generated in Australia by 10% per person by 2030; reaching an 80% average recovery rate from all waste streams by 2030; and increasing significantly the use of recycled content by governments and industry.

In March 2020, it was agreed that the export of waste glass, plastic (including processed engineered fuel), tyres and paper would be regulated by the Australian government. In early July 2021, the Australian Government announced the introduction of a ban on the mixed export of mixed plastic waste exports. Further, it stated industry leaders had confirmed they were ready for the next step of a staged series of export bans that will transform Australia’s recycling industry and contribute to 10,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.

As at December 2021, the Sustainability IRC is reviewing the MSS Sustainability Training Package, in view of the industry’s developing and dynamic field of practice, as evidenced by recent changes in Australian legislation, bans on export of waste and the global shift towards a circular economy.

The Sustainability project will revise the Sustainability Operations and Environmental Monitoring and Technology qualifications and units of competency to ensure they are current and comprehensive. Skills for the circular economy are also set to be addressed within existing and/or new units of competency and the need for skill sets will be considered.

Separately the Competitive Systems and Practices (CSP) Project is also underway (as at December 2021). Due to the increasing focus on advanced manufacturing and sustainable manufacturing processes, as well as new technological advances, there is a need to review CSP content to ensure it aligns with current industry needs and to support business with new opportunities to upskill their workforce and maintain competitive business operations.

Separately, 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.

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 Sustainability, the IBSA Group report states how current industry qualifications support and relate to the modern manufacturing strategy priority sectors, particularly the Recycling and Clean Energy priority sector.

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

2019 National Waste Policy Action Plan - Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

Competitive Systems and Practices Project – IBSA Group

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

National Waste Policy – Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

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

Sustainability project – IBSA Group

Waste Exports - Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

World-first Ban on Waste Plastic Exports (joint media release) – Minister for the Environment and Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Association for Manufacturing Excellence

Association for Sustainability in Business

Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council

Australian Sustainable Business Group

Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia

Energy Efficiency Council

Facility Management Association of Australia

Getting to Sustainability

LEAN Enterprise Australia

Sustainability Matters

The Fifth Estate

Water Stewardship Australia

 

Employee associations

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union

 

Data sources and notes

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

  • MSS Sustainability Training Package and MSA Manufacturing Training Package.
  • Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS20312 - Certificate II in Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS20316 - Certificate II in Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS30312 - Certificate III in Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS30316 - Certificate III in Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS40312 - Certificate IV in Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS40316 - Certificate IV in Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS50312 - Diploma of Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS50316 - Diploma of Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS60312 - Advanced Diploma of Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS60316 - Advanced Diploma of Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS70312 - Graduate Certificate in Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS80312 - Graduate Diploma of Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS80316 - Graduate Certificate in Competitive Systems and Practices
    • MSS80416 - Graduate Diploma of Competitive Systems and Practices.
  • Environmental Monitoring and Technology, and Environmental Management
    • MSS40211 - Certificate IV in Environmental Monitoring and Technology
    • MSS40216 - Certificate IV in Environmental Monitoring and Technology
    • MSS40218 - Certificate IV in Environmental Monitoring and Technology
    • MSS50211 - Diploma of Environmental Monitoring and Technology
    • MSS50216 - Diploma of Environmental Monitoring and Technology
    • MSS50218 - Diploma of Environmental Monitoring and Technology
    • MSS70211 - Graduate Certificate in Environmental Management
    • MSS80216 - Graduate Certificate in Environmental Management
    • MSS80218 - Graduate Certificate in Environmental Management.
  • Manufacturing Technology
    • MSA31108 - Certificate III in Competitive Manufacturing
    • MSA41108 - Certificate IV in Competitive Manufacturing
    • MSA51108 - Diploma of Competitive Manufacturing
    • MSA61108 - Advanced Diploma of Competitive Manufacturing.
  • Production Management
    • MSA50311 – Diploma of Production Management.
  • Sustainable Operations
    • MSS40111 - Certificate IV in Sustainable Operations
    • MSS40116 - Certificate IV in Sustainable Operations
    • MSS40118 - Certificate IV in Sustainable Operations
    • MSS50111 - Diploma of Sustainable Operations
    • MSS50112 - Diploma of Sustainable Operations
    • MSS50116 - Diploma of Sustainable Operations
    • MSS50118 - Diploma of Sustainable Operations
    • MSS70111 - Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Operations
    • MSS80116 - Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Operations
    • MSS80118 - Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Operations.

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%.

MSS – Sustainability Training Package and MSA – Manufacturing 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.

Data on skills for innovation has been sourced from Australian Bureau of Statistics – 8167.0 - Characteristics of Australian Businesses 2017–18, Skills, available at http://stat.data.abs.gov.au, viewed November 2019.

Updated: 21 Jan 2022
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