Publication cover

Readiness to meet demand for skills: a study of five growth industries

By Francesca Beddie, Mette Creaser, Jo Hargreaves, Adrian Ong Research report 10 October 2014 ISBN 978 1 925173 02 4


This study considers issues pertinent to ensuring the Australian education and training system can respond to emerging skills demand in the following industries: food and agriculture; biotechnology and pharmaceuticals; advanced manufacturing; mining equipment, technology and services; and oil and gas. The report finds a widening gap between education and skills demand and highlights the crucial role of employers in developing a skilled workforce, as well as calling for a shift in thinking about the way skills are generated.

A recording of the webinar Is the education and training system ready to meet future skill demand? held on 4 December 2014 is available for viewing from our Webinar series page


About the research

The Australian Government is reviewing its industry investment and competitiveness agenda. As part of that process the Department of Industry asked the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) to investigate the readiness of the education and training sector to meet demand from five industries where potential market opportunities have been identified: food and agribusiness; mining equipment, technology and services; medical technologies and pharmaceuticals; oil and gas; and advanced manufacturing.

The aim of this study was to identify issues pertinent to ensuring that the education and training system can respond to emerging skills demand in these industry areas. Some of those issues apply more broadly across the economy, and most need to be addressed in conjunction with other areas of industry policy.

Key messages

  • The gap between the knowledge generated in the education system and the skills demanded by employers and individuals is widening. Differences within and between the industries notwithstanding, a common theme across all is the need for a significant cultural shift in thinking about the way skills are generated and deployed.
  • The constraints on the readiness of enterprises to meet demand stem both from within the education system and the changing nature of global value chains. Overcoming these limitations requires:
    • better outcomes from both school and post-school education in developing generic and foundation skills. These need now to include Asia literacy
    • a priority focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), including the development of workplace skills in STEM undergraduate or research degrees and opportunities for continuing professional development in STEM disciplines
    • businesses to better understand their skill needs during different phases of their involvement in global value chains and to encourage workplace learning opportunities
    • funding policies for education and training that support continuing professional development.
  • The role of employers is crucial. They must encourage and support a more nimble workforce, that is, one willing to learn new skills and adapt to change. This will require partnerships with schools, vocational education and training (VET) institutions, universities and research organisations.
  • Knowledge hubs or clusters create opportunities to foster the creation of skill-intensive jobs, which can lead to innovation and productivity. These demand resources and continuous learning.
  • The diversity within each of the five industries, in terms of the stages of their business development and their economic activity, creates challenges in gathering statistical data.
  • Particular issues emerged for each industry:
    • In agriculture and manufacturing, older, lower-skilled workers require retraining to find acceptable jobs in their changing industries or elsewhere.
    • In oil, gas and mining, recruiting and maintaining workers in remote and hazardous locations are ongoing challenges.
    • In biotechnology, universities and companies must work closely to understand the business environment to thereby ensure a supply of appropriately skilled graduates.

Rod Camm
Managing Director, NCVER


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