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Manufacturing and Related Services


This page provides high-level information on the Manufacturing and Related Services industry. The industry, as it is represented here, covers the following eight sectors (in alphabetical order):

The Manufacturing and Related Services industry is very diverse, covering multiple sectors. It forms a large part of the Australian economy and is one of Australia’s largest employing industries. It has, however, declined in size due to factors such as the increasing availability of manufactured products in lower cost economies.  

The ANZSIC classified Manufacturing industry employed approximately 1.1 million people in the year 2000, however this has declined to about 960,000 thousand in 2018 This represents 7.6% of all employed persons in 2018 as compared to 12.4% of all employed persons in 2000, at which time it was the largest single industry sector for employment (sixth largest in 2018).

Nationally recognised training for Manufacturing and Related Services occupations is delivered under the following training packages:

For information on other Manufacturing related industries see the following cluster pages:

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

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Aerospace IRC

Furnishing IRC

Manufacturing and Engineering IRC

Process Manufacturing, Recreational Vehicles and Laboratory IRC

Sustainability IRC

Textile, Clothing and Footwear IRC

Industry cluster snapshot

There were approximately 97,910 program enrolments during 2018 in Manufacturing-related qualifications, down from around 130,180 in 2015. Program completions have also declined over the same period from approximately 44,370 during 2015 to just under 33,170 in 2018. 

During 2018, qualifications from the MEM05 – Metal and Engineering Training Package accounted for 42% of all program enrolments in the Manufacturing and Related Services industry, with qualifications from the MSF – Furnishing Training Package accounting for a further 13% and qualifications from the MSM – Manufacturing Training Package 12%.

Numbers of subject-only (no program) enrolments have fluctuated over the last four years, with similar numbers of enrolments seen in 2015 and 2017 of approximately 139,240 and 139,310 respectively. During 2018 there were approximately 189,710 subject-only (no program) enrolments, of which 78% were in subjects from the MSM – Manufacturing Training Package. In 2018, training packages which had considerably higher numbers of subject-only enrolments compared to program enrolments included MSM – Manufacturing and MSA – Manufacturing.

Industry insights on skills needs

There are nine IRC skills forecasts for the Manufacturing and Related Services industry. The key generic workforce skills of the combined Manufacturing IRCs are listed in each skills forecast to enable comparison with those specific to each industry sector. The top five generic skills for the combined Manufacturing IRCs in order of priority are:

  • Design mindset/Thinking critically/Systems thinking/Solving problems skills
  • Technology use and application skills
  • Learning agility/Information literacy/Intellectual autonomy and self-management skills
  • Communication/Collaboration including virtual collaboration/Social intelligence skills
  • Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

A common theme across the nine IRC skills forecasts is changing skill needs due to technological change, particularly regarding automation. A report prepared by PwC for the Swinburne University of Technology, Transforming Australian Manufacturing: Preparing Businesses and Workplaces for Industry 4.0, states Australian manufacturing is progressively becoming focused on priority sectors and on high value, high quality products, which is changing the skills required of the workforce. Businesses require employees with critical thinking and higher-level problem-solving skills, and highly specialised skills in research, software engineering and data science. However, despite these changes within the industry and in employee conditions, manufacturing is not perceived as a stable or secure career path. The report also lists intelligent data analytics skills, digital literacy, advanced cognitive skills as emerging skill needs for new job roles within the industry.

The main findings for manufacturing in A Robotics Roadmap for Australia 2018 highlight the importance of lifelong learning and workforce health and safety for the manufacturing workforce in the context of transitioning to Industry 4.0 technologies. Manufacturing in Australia is increasing in niche, high-value areas and has a specific need to utilise robotics to remain competitive in the global market place, extending skilled human capability while reducing exposure to dirty and dangerous processes. The report also finds that ongoing training of manufacturing workers is required to keep ahead of technological developments, the industry has an ageing workforce and it is struggling to attract young people.

The fourth report produced from Ai Group's 2019 business prospects survey, Australian Manufacturing in 2019: Local and Global Opportunities, states Australian manufacturing employment is projected to increase by over 50,000 in the next five years, and many Australian manufacturers fear their growth plans may be constrained by skill shortages. The report attributes the skills shortages to economic and demographic changes that include school leaving ages, funding of trade training, lack of parity of esteem between university and vocational education and training, and negative perceptions of career prospects. Poor perceptions of manufacturing may be placing the industry at a disadvantage, with some manufacturers finding it difficult to attract skilled trades people due to competition from large infrastructure projects, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.

The Advanced Manufacturing Roadmap by CSIRO Futures presents a vision of Australian (advanced) Manufacturing being transformed into a highly integrated, collaborative and export-focused ecosystem providing high value customised solutions within global value chains.

The report identifies three opportunity themes for Australian manufacturing in the future:

  • Customised high-margin solutions – this includes design services, and the manufacture of superior components and novel products.
  • Sustainable manufacturing – both business models and processes to support sustainable manufacturing and also the manufacture of sustainable products.
  • Selling services – this includes maintenance and repair services, workflow management services and health and biosecurity services.

Part of the enabling actions for manufacturing success in the future includes skills, training and the workforce. They highlight four main skill areas for development and acquisition:

  • Digital literacy – data science and digital literacy skills including expertise in smart data systems, communications and data interpretation.
  • Leadership and strategic management – a requirement for more a sophisticated approach to business planning and staff management for small family run manufacturing businesses.
  • Customer interface – the integration of product design requires more customer liaison skills.
  • STEM – seen as fundamental for advanced manufacturing, particularly in product design and development. 

Advanced manufacturing is a priority industry for the Commonwealth and state/territory governments. The Australian Government Department of Industry facilitates the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, and most of the jurisdictions have released strategies or roadmaps to promote growth for the industry (see the Relevant research section below).

For an analysis of skills needs for specific manufacturing sectors, please see the relevant sector pages.

Links and resources

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre

ANZLAA – Australian and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association

Association for Manufacturing Excellence

Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers (ARPM)

Association for Sustainability in Business

Association of Rotational Moulders

Australasian Association of Clinical Biochemists

Australasian Bioplastics

Australasian Laboratory Managers Association

Australasian Piano Tuners and Technicians Association (APTTA)

Australasian Plastics and Rubber Institute Inc (APRI)

Australia New Zealand Industrial Gas Association

Australia Woodworking Industry Suppliers Association

Australian 3D Manufacturing Association (A3DMA)

Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council

Australian and New Zealand Society of Blood Transfusion

Australian Cablemakers Association

Australian Explosives Industry Safety Group

Australian Fashion Council

Australian Fertiliser Services Association

Australian Furniture Association

Australian Helicopter Industry Association

Australian Hide, Skin and Leather Exports Association

Australian Industry Group

Australian Institute of Medical Scientists

Australian Manufacturing Technology Institute Limited (AMTIL)

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)

Australian Resilient Flooring Association (ARFA)

Australian Steel Institute

Australian Stone Advisory Association

Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council

Australian Sustainable Business Group

Australian Timber Flooring Association

Australian Window Association

Aviation Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Business Association (AMROBA)

Aviation/Aerospace Australia

Blind Manufacturers’ Association of Australia

Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia (BCSD Australia)

Caravan and Camping Industries Association of South Australia

Caravan Industry Association of Australia

Caravan Industry Association Western Australia

Caravan Trade and Industries Association of Queensland

Caravan Trade and Industries Association of Victoria

Caravan, Camping Industry Association of NSW

Carpet Institute of Australia (CIA)

Cement Industry Federation

Cement, Concrete and Aggregates Australia

Centre for Sustainability Leadership

Chemistry Australia

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Composites Australia

Design Institute of Australia

Dry Cleaning Institute of Australia

Energy Efficiency Council

Engineers Australia

Facility Management Association

Floor Covering Institute of Australia

Furnishing Industry Association of Australia (FIAA)

Getting to Sustainability

Jewellers Association of Australia

Kitchen and Bathroom Designers Institute

Laundry Association Australia

LEAN Enterprise Australia

Locksmiths Guild of Australia

Manufacturing Australia

Master Locksmiths Association of Australasia Limited

Millinery Association of Australia

Minerals Council of Australia

National Measurement Institute

National Precast Concrete Association

National Security Screen Association

Picture Framers Guild of Australia

Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association

Plastics Industry Manufacturers of Australia

Queensland Interior Decorators Association

Regional Aviation Association of Australia

Science Industry Australia

Science Education Technicians Australia (SETA)

Specialised Textiles Association

Standards Australia

Sustainability Matters

Technical Textiles and Nonwoven Textiles Association

The Fifth Estate

Vinyl Council of Australia

Watch and Clockmakers of Australia

Water Stewardship Australia

Western Australia Furniture Manufacturers Association

Window and Door Industry Council

Window Coverings Association of Australia


Employee associations

Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU)

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)

Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU)

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU)

Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia

United Workers Union


Relevant research

A Robotics Roadmap for Australia 2018 – Australian Centre for Robotic Vision

Advanced Manufacturing: Building Resilience in Australian Manufacturing – Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre 2018

Advancing Victorian Manufacturing: A Blueprint for the Future – Victoria. Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

Advanced Manufacturing Roadmap – CSIRO Futures 2016

Australian Manufacturing in 2019: Local and Global Opportunities – Australian Industry Group

Diversify WA – Western Australia. Department of Premier and Cabinet

Industry 4.0: An Opportunity for Every Australian Manufacturer: Submission to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science – Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre

NSW Advanced Manufacturing Industry Development Strategy – New South Wales. Department of Industry

Queensland Advanced Manufacturing 10-year Roadmap and Action Plan [2016 and 2018] – Queensland. Department of State Development

Tasmanian Advanced Manufacturing Action Plan – Tasmania. Department of State Growth

Transforming Australian Manufacturing: Preparing Businesses and Workplaces for Industry 4.0 – PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)

Data sources and notes

Employment data has been extracted from:

Employment data has been extracted from The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), sex, state and territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 – EQ06, viewed 1 November 2018,

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

  • MEA Aeroskills
  • MEM Manufacturing and Engineering
  • MEM05 Metal and Engineering
  • MSA07 Manufacturing
  • MSF Furnishing
  • MSL Laboratory Operations
  • MSM Manufacturing
  • MSS Sustainability
  • MST Textiles, Clothing and Footwear
  • PMA Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining
  • PMB Plastics, Rubber and Cablemaking
  • PMC Manufactured Mineral Products.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 subject enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 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.

Updated: 30 Jan 2020
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