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Industry and occupation skills:


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 IRC Skills Forecasts 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:


  • Electrical skills
  • Health and safety
  • Maintenance and servicing
  • Testing and diagnostics

Industry-specific knowledge

This refers to the specific knowledge that IRCs identified as a priority for their 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
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Laboratory Operations
  • Printing and Graphic Arts
  • Rail.

Understanding and use of equipment or technology

This refers to examples where IRCs identify skills 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:

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 and the Australian Border Force’s (ABF) National Detector Dog Program Facility 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. If successful, the 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 case study videos mentioned earlier 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:

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 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 have been sourced from the Process Manufacturing, Recreational Vehicle and Laboratory Operations IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, and the Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical Product Manufacturing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast. These highlight the need for industry and occupation-specific skills (please note that the themes from these quotes are interspersed throughout many of the 2019 IRC Skill Forecasts).

Increasingly, employers are describing robotics and automation as imperatives for their businesses. Due to the likelihood that most manual processes will eventually be automated, employers are looking for laboratory services technicians, who are comfortable and practised in their use of automation. These workers will require higher skill levels to maximise the use of new technology. (Process Manufacturing, Recreational Vehicle and Laboratory Operations IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast)

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 Skills Forecast)

Animal Care and Management industry and Racing industries

This case study includes two distinct industry clusters, both of which identified specific industry and occupation-related skills as priorities for their workforce:

  • Animal Care and Management
  • Racing.
The industry and occupation-related skills identified by these industries were:
  • Animal Care and Management:
    • Ethical animal use
    • Animal awareness and behaviour
    • Emotional intelligence of animals
    • Foundational skills in animal care and management (focusing on the safety, health and welfare of animals, including handling, feeding, grooming, supervision, training and exercise)
    • Advanced skills in veterinary nursing, especially for care in crisis, emergency and serious situations.
  • Racing:
    • Animal welfare
    • Integrity and ethical conduct.

The following quotes have been sourced from the Animal Care and Management IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast. These highlight the need for industry and occupation specific skills:

Working in animal care and management requires high-level skills and consumers are expecting more from those working within the industry.

Both training and care skills will need to be enhanced to ensure the safe and effective training and utilisation of assistance animals. Assistance Animal Training Organisations are registered, and the expansion of assistance and therapy animal services is likely to increase the demand for skills in these areas.

A few additional quotes from the Racing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast highlight in more detail their priority skills, which are certainly very specific to the industry:    

Over the last few years, businesses have had to respond to challenges and opportunities in all related occupations, particularly in relation to the integrity of horse races, and social and workplace obligations in all classes of horse and greyhound racing. Racing businesses and RTOs have been required to embed numerous changes into their operations, including: safe horse riding and handling practices; revised and modernised racing practices including changes to traditional operational structures; greater support for ‘new life after racing’ options for retired animals.

In each industry, the trainer faces ultimate responsibility for all industry integrity issues. The need for formal training and assessment, recognised by qualifications, Skills Sets and licensing, has grown with the increasing focus on social licence to operate and changing community standards, combined with expansion of fields covered by regulation and changing training skills.

A particular concern over the last few years has been overbreeding and mistreatment of greyhounds. Greyhound racing clubs throughout Australia have set up programs to address overbreeding and encourage adoption of ex-racing dogs as family pets. Greyhounds Australasia announced its endorsement of a National Welfare Strategy in May 2014, and formal training is being developed to support these efforts.

Updated: 25 Mar 2021
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