On September 14th 2020, the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) launched a report “Ten Ways to Succeed in Australian Manufacturing” with an aim to support the transformation of Australia’s manufacturing through research. As the name suggests, the report explores ten ways for Australian manufacturers to overcome common obstacles and to ensure they remain competitive in the future.
This report draws on three major studies completed by the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) in 2019. The first of these involved conducting more than 30 focus groups, roundtable discussions and interviews with individuals within 93 manufacturing companies, industry bodies, government agencies, and universities across Australia. The industry bodies represented approximately 370 manufacturers located around the country, large and small, urban and rural. The second study was a survey of 1,000 members of the Australian public about their perceptions of manufacturing. The third included a survey of 1,000 students and focus groups to learn what they thought about manufacturing and whether it was a potential career path for them.
LA Services was one of the surveyed manufacturers and was also featured in a case study in the report circling around the “Way 8” of success in manufacturing – Hiring the Right People.
The partnership between AMGC and LA Services goes way back, led by Kelly Godeau from AMGC and David Fox, GM of LA Services who first met in 2016 at the Western Sydney University Launch Pad. The partnership is focused on enabling educational institutions and industry partners to benefit from one another by providing on the job training for students.
Industry partners benefit from the fresh approach and enthusiasm brought by young talent, while educational institutions ensure their graduates leave with the right skills required in the job market.
The aim is to provide a practice based support system for secondary school students through work experience and internships that help students see a connection between education content and its application in manufacturing and engineering. In other words, it enables students to experience manufacturing in their own backyard, and then take that conversation back to the school yard or dinner table to challenge the status quo on manufacturing.
Manufacturers particularly struggle when it comes to finding and retaining new talent due to several factors like competition from other more “advanced” industries, gaps in skills as well as a lack of internship programs providing practice-based learning in schools.
Internships are particularly critical since they can expose young Australians to industrial work environments and the required skills to succeed in this field.
“The first step to getting students engaged with the industry is for the industry to engage with students and influencers. The website remains important once knowledge or interest is aroused.”
This is one area where LA Services have constantly strived to work with schools and universities over the years to bridge the gap between education and industry. In 2016, LA Services began to realise that a significant portion of its workforce was edging toward retirement and attracting the next generation of employees was a major issue. Initially, LA Services focused on trade apprenticeships to fill in the gaps, but quickly found this approach just wasn’t enough. Instead, LA Services undertook an industry-education engagement experiment with nearby Liverpool Boys High School. “Liverpool Boys High School utilises industry placements and passion-based project learning facilitated by the Big Picture Education Australia organisation, rather than relying solely on the curriculum. So we decided to collaborate with the school,” explained David Fox, General Manager.
All in all, Industry must have a place in the education system. Manufacturers need to understand how the next generation of workers thinks, so they can better engage. Students need to understand what it is we do, so manufacturing becomes a viable career choice. Concepts like SBAT have the potential to enable this, but there is presently a disconnect, in that this sort of training is not recognised by the ‘school system’ as a worthy education module, illustrated by its exclusion from the higher school certificate. The school system needs to better understand industry skill requirements today, and more importantly what is coming down the pipeline tomorrow.
The best way to forge ahead together is for manufacturers to engage directly with schools and students which is what LA Services have been doing for the last 4 years. “The key to success is learning from one other, spanning different generations and technologies. I’ve learnt just as much from the students and the school, as they have from LA Services” Fox said.