It’s no secret manufacturing has been in winding down in Australia for the past 20-30 years. Many experts have predicted the end of this once booming industry that hit its peak in the 1960s. However, the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and disruption to international supply has created a new life for the Australian manufacturing industry, leading to new work and increased recruitment activity, with more expected to come.

The Federal Government recently highlighted the need to reinvigorate the manufacturing industry through its Modern Manufacturing Strategy which includes a $1.3 billion investment to help businesses scale-up and achieve commercial success and a $107 million supply chain resilience initiative to address gaps in critical supply chains.

With the focus now shifting to onshore opportunities, the future is looking brighter for manufacturing and jobs growth in Australia. But after many years where manufacturing has been on the backburner, it is clear we need to bridge a skills shortage. The challenge will be finding people with the skills to match this re-emerging industry.

What we are now seeing is clients wanting staff who are suitably skilled to work between the shop floor and the office – offering strategic input as well as being subject matter experts. But this is easier said than done. In the current market we are finding suitably skilled staff are extremely hard to find. We are currently presenting one person for interviews, where clients are typically accustomed to interviewing three. Due to this shortfall, in some cases clients having to reconsider what they are looking for.

To tap into a broader talent pool, employers will need to identify ways for workers to utilise their transferable skills, possibly undertaking short study courses or consider finding people willing to relocate. Many clients in fields such as high and medium voltage power manufacturing, technical and electrical assembly and agricultural processes plants are having to look at their recruitment strategy differently. We work with them to explore different avenues, asking key questions: do they need to do more to keep their existing staff, do they need to engage contractors or consultants, can some work be done offshore?

Candidates are demanding flexibility, challenge, and an engaging environment. Money is always important, but we are seeing this as less of a driving factor. Because manufacturing working hours are shift-based and more rigid, and there are fewer opportunities for flexibility or working from home. Businesses need to consider new ways of working, perhaps with a different roster structure, and factor in a budget for professional development to ensure they can up-skill their people for the future.

By offering an appealing working environment and supporting their preferred candidates to pursue skill development where required, the manufacturing industry can evolve to meet a renewed presence in Australia.

As always, if you think your recruitment strategy needs a fresh direction in light of the changing employment market, or if you need help finding the right people to fit your business and culture, particularly in this tight market, please get in touch.

Best regards and happy recruiting,

Andrew Hill

Photo by Barrett Ward on Unsplash