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Industry and occupation skills:

Overview

Industry and occupation skills refer to specific skills that different IRCs have identified as being a priority for their industry.

While all industries and occupations require skills specific to their industry or occupation, many Industry Reference Committee (IRC) Skills Forecasts, Industry Outlooks and Proposed Schedules of Work, alongside other relevant industry literature identified specific technical skills which are deemed to be a high priority. These skills vary from industry to industry — some are specific to the context of a particular industry or occupation, while others apply to multiple industries and occupations. The following groups of industry occupation skills and knowledge will be discussed further below:  

  • Occupation and industry-specific skills
  • Cross-industry skills and trades
  • Industry knowledge
  • Understanding and use of technology and equipment.

Industry skills needs

Industry and occupation-specific skills

This refers to the specific skills IRCs identified as being unique to their industry and occupations. Many IRCs identified industry or occupation-specific priority skills, including (but not limited to) skills like:

  • Animal welfare, and integrity and ethical conduct in the Racing industry
  • Application of traceability processes in Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical Product Manufacturing industry
  • Ethical animal use in the Animal Care and Management industry
  • Facilitating online and face to face learning, and the ability to identify individual learner needs in the Education industry
  • Fault diagnosis and mechanical and electrical repair of modern vehicle systems in the Automotive industry
  • Financial literacy, capacity and industry knowledge in the Financial Services industry
  • Genetics and molecular testing diagnostics in the Laboratory Operations industry
  • High pressure water jetting and vacuuming in the Recreational Vehicles industry
  • Industrial sewing in the Textiles, Clothing and Footwear industry
  • Maintenance of ageing aircraft in the Aerospace industry
  • Mechatronics in the Metals, Engineering and Boating industry
  • Piloting in the Aviation industry
  • Pulp de-inking and bleaching for high and medium grade paper products in the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry
  • Search and rescue in the Public Safety industry
  • Track vehicle operations and signalling in the Rail industry
  • Transmission, cabling and electrical in the ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail industry
  • Treatment and processing in the Water industry.

Please visit industry sector pages for more information on the specific skills for each industry and Industry Reference Committee.

 

Cross-industry skills and trades

This refers to specific technical skills that are important across different industries. Several IRCs identified cross-industry priority skills and trades. This includes skills like:

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  • Digital skills
  • Electrical skills
  • Health and safety
  • Maintenance and servicing
  • Project Management
  • Testing and diagnostics

Industry-specific knowledge

This refers to the specific knowledge identified as a priority for each industry. It includes knowledge of materials and products as well as knowledge of the industry sector. Some of the IRCs and industry sectors that identified industry knowledge as being a priority include:

  • Aerospace
  • Arts, Culture, Entertainment and Design
  • Automotive
  • Aviation
  • Business Services
  • Education
  • Financial Services
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Laboratory Operations
  • Manufacturing
  • Printing and Graphic Arts
  • Rail.

Understanding and use of equipment or technology

This refers to examples where skills are required in using specific equipment or technology, such as:

  • Technology skills for paper bag, paper stationary and sanitary paper production manufacturing in the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry

Whether skills are referred to specifically or more generally, it is clear there is a need for technical and occupation-specific skills across all industries.

COVID-19 impact

Most industries have been impacted to some degree by the COVID-19 pandemic. In many instances, businesses have been able to respond to the challenges faced through the use of existing industry and occupation skills.

Industry and occupation-specific skills

When faced with the challenges posed by the pandemic, existing industry and occupation-specific skills are proving invaluable for some sectors, for example:

Within the Maritime sector Pilotage is a highly skilled profession as it is essential for the safe carriage of vessels. Pilots are rarely readily transferable across ports, due to the requirement of specific knowledge of a stationed locality. During COVID-19 ports were acutely aware of this, as pilots are also the first individuals to interact with crew and board a vessel. Accordingly, ports around Australia promptly implemented significant additional safety procedures to protect their pilots and to allow for the continued functioning of trade in the event pilotage is compromised.

The Racing Industry was able to continue operations during the pandemic because workers already maintained the skills required to handle complex biosecurity risks. Infection control, which may usually be considered in terms of occupations that routinely deal with biosecurity risks, such as in health and animal care, laboratory operations and security, became mandatory for all industry sectors. Cross-sector infection control skill sets with contextual advice for 10 industry sectors were endorsed in July 2020 to enable current and future employees to gain the skills needed for their specific industries.

Increased demand for ‘point of care’ testing skills was anticipated for the Laboratory Operations industry at the onset of the pandemic. Frontline workers with diagnosis and testing skills were provided with additional training opportunities, through the COVID-19 Critical Skills Point of Care Testing Skill Set, which was endorsed in April 2020, to support the testing and post-diagnosis care of COVID-19 patients.

In addition, the University of Adelaide with participation from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (Biosecurity), Australian Border Force and the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service have been trialling the training of COVID-19 detector dogs following preliminary results that show specialised working dogs can detect COVID-19 Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in patients, even when people are asymptomatic or in the incubation phase. Research trials were conducted at Sydney International Terminal and Adelaide Airport in 2021, and if successful, SA Health have indicated support to the commencement of operational trials on ‘live’ samples from passengers arriving on repatriation flights. The potential use of COVID-19 detector dogs, as a safety measure for Australia’s Tourism Industry, may lead to an increase in demand for quarantine officers who already have dog handling skills.

Cross-industry skills and trades

Given many industries were hit hard by restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, there has been a strong focus on transferable skills to assist displaced workers into occupations where demand is high.

Businesses have had to shift their focus, in order to continue operating (in some instances thriving) in the face of new product demand. For example:

The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources released a series of case study videos on YouTube which highlight the ingenuity which has been applied by Australian businesses in response to heightened PPE product demand as a result of COVID-19. This includes businesses that reverse engineered their production lines to manufacture surgical masks, sneeze barriers for reception areas, and mask filtration materials. An example of this was evident in the performing arts industry, which was largely was closed down as a result of the virus. Rather than becoming disused, costume designers and theatrical wardrobe stitchers utilised their industry skills to make fabric masks to sell to the public.

Due to surges in product demand; the temporary closure of manufacturing in parts of Asia; and border restrictions as a result of COVID-19, supply chain management became a critical skill for many industries.

The previously mentioned case study videos promote the agility and resilience displayed by food manufacturers when managing surges in product demand, and identified lessons to be learned about the complexity of their supply chain. The pandemic also caused noticeable shifts in demand for Food and Pharmaceutical Production, and Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure; there was the loss of markets into Asia for Aquaculture and Wild Catch, and border closures affected the Transport Industry. In each of these instances, skills in supply chain management proved vital.

Understanding and use of equipment or technology

Skills in the use of digital technology has become an integral part of many industries as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CSIRO report Global trade and investment megatrends states the necessity of remote working and learning, online shopping, healthcare (telehealth), communication and entertainment has compelled a decade’s worth of digital transformation to occur within a matter of months. Industry-specific examples include:

  • Medicare-funded access was made available for general practice, nursing, midwifery, allied health and allied mental health services, bringing forward a 10 year plan on telehealth, to occur within 10 days. Rapid growth was reported by platform providers, and the National Nursing and Midwifery Digital Health Capability Framework was released in October 2020. ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse 2021 found that 48% of survey respondents who visited their general practitioner between April and May 2020 did so virtually. New technology platforms have also been adopted to support the provision of an integrated vaccination record system across Australia.
  • The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) has aggregated solution services, information and advice to support business continuity through the use of technology and, Atlassian made its remote-friendly software products available for free, for small teams. ACS Australia's digital pulse 2021 noted people were 1.7 times more likely to work from home at least once a week in February 2021 (compared to March 2020), with 41% of Australian workers were still working from home in some capacity in early 2021. Additionally, more than half (56%) of all employed Australians wanted the amount of working from home to remain the same or increase in the future.
  • Mining companies have been early adopters of automation technologies and the automation micro-credential course developed by the Resource Industry Collaboration in Western Australia was offered to apprentices displaced by COVID-19.
  • The closure of gyms and personal training studios has increased the number of operators in the Fitness Industry providing services over digital platforms, changing the look of fitness in the future.

As a consequence of this, cross-industry information and communication technology (ICT) skills related to artificial intelligence (AI), data science, machine learning, robotics, and cybersecurity have become a priority. Nine new skill sets were endorsed in July 2020 to assist the ICT sector meet its priority workforce needs in a number of specialty areas, followed by the Digital Skills for Small Business Skill Set and Entry into Technology Skill Set in September 2020.

Case studies

Laboratory Operations, and Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical Product Manufacturing Industries

Included in this case study are two distinct industry clusters, both of which identified specific industry and occupation-related skills as priorities for their workforce.

  • Laboratory Operations, which covers a diverse range of technical and scientific operations across a variety of industry sectors, such as:
    • Biomedical laboratories
    • Biotechnology
    • Construction materials testing
    • Defence laboratories
    • Environmental testing/monitoring
    • Food and beverage testing
    • Manufacturing testing
    • Mineral assay
    • Pathology testing
    • Process manufacturing
    • Wine making.

  • Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical Product Manufacturing, which comprises three sectors:
    • Food Product Manufacturing
    • Beverage Manufacturing
    • Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Product Manufacturing.

The industry and occupation-related skills identified by these industries were:

  • Laboratory Operations:
    • Point of Care Testing (PoCT)
    • Surgical cut-up
    • Genetics and molecular testing diagnostics.
  • Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical Product Manufacturing:
    • Product and equipment handling including transporting, processing packaging and stock control
    • Application of traceability processes
    • Operating new technologies including provenance processes and systems.

The following quotes highlight the need for industry and occupation-specific skills:

With 80% of minerals laboratories expected to have automation capability by 2030, the need to upskill laboratory workers to operate autonomous machinery and work safely in an autonomous environment remains apparent. Laboratory technicians specializing in sample preparation, sample analyst, and quality control roles are likely to spend less time on repetitive, manual tasks and more time on monitoring multiple systems, troubleshooting equipment and processes, interpreting results, and ensuring the integrity of large batches of samples are maintained. (Resources Industry Training Council Laboratory Operations Snapshot)

The Process Manufacturing, Recreational Vehicle and Laboratory Industry Reference Committee identified an opportunity for extractive metallurgical technicians to have specialist skills in process flow operations to support the battery minerals industry, and the RITC are furthering recommendations for a fire-assay qualification or skill set to support other metallurgical skill demand. (Resources Industry Training Council Laboratory Operations Snapshot)

Indigenous food is a rapidly expanding sector in both local and global markets. There is growing demand from domestic and international consumers for products made with native ingredients due to their nutritional value and ‘storied’ provenance.

New job roles in the native foods industry require specific skills for working with and in Aboriginal and remote communities, wild food harvesting and processing, and exporting ‘exotic’ products with strict food safety regulations. A new Case for Change proposes the creation of a qualification specialisation or skill set to describe the skills necessary for working in the burgeoning Australian indigenous bush foods industry. (Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical IRC’s 2021 Skills Forecast and Proposed Schedule of Work)

The society and cultural influences on the laboratory operations industry include an ageing population, with an expected increase in demand for healthcare services. In turn, this is expected to drive higher demand for laboratory services. For example, NSW Health Pathology has trained over 35,000 operators in PoCT. It is the world’s largest accredited managed PoCT service and currently has over 500 devices in more than 180 metropolitan, regional and rural hospital locations. (Process Manufacturing, Recreational Vehicle and Laboratory Operations IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast)

The food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturing industries operate in constantly changing environments driven by consumer demands and industry practices and innovations, with risk management a key focus in all operations. Operators and workers are faced with challenges in dealing with the consequences of international standards (including ISO), as well as policies and regulation that are driven at federal, state and territory levels, and by local governments and government agencies. (Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical Product Manufacturing IRC’s 2019-2022 Skills Forecast)

Updated: 01 Apr 2022
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