Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Jobs recovery must focus on skills for an Aussie-made future

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) released on 16 December makes a start on the essential task of upgrading manufacturing workforce skills to drive strong economic and jobs growth, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) says.

AFGC CEO Tanya Barden says the MYEFO’s upgraded projection for job creation will depend on sectors such as food and grocery manufacturing overcoming the current and projected shortage of highly skilled employees.

“We have been calling for a skills audit to understand the gap between the sector’s current skills capabilities and the needs of a more automated and digitalised food and grocery manufacturing sector,” she says.

“We are very pleased to see in today’s MYEFO documents that $1 million has been allocated to develop a Manufacturing Workforce Strategy aimed at identifying critical skill gaps in the sector.

“We need to map the food and grocery manufacturing industry’s needs for priority technical skills and support their development through grants for focused education and training and fast-track visa programs for global talent.

“We are ready to work with the government to identify the skills needed in the food and grocery manufacturing sector, now and into the future, and to work further on programs to help manufacturers access the highly skilled talent they need for our sector to thrive.”

Food and grocery is the largest manufacturing sector in the nation and one of the six national priority areas, worth almost $133 billion and employing more than 270,000 people.

“We need to supercharge our sovereign food and grocery production capabilities with measures that support firms to invest, create jobs and develop advanced manufacturing in Australia,” says Ms Barden.

A plan to put the industry on a high-growth path, doubling its value to $250 billion by 2030, was outlined in the landmark Sustaining Australia: Food and Grocery Manufacturing 2030 report released by the AFGC earlier this year.

“Given the industry has experienced stagnant capital investment due to a decade of rising costs and shrinking margins, we are looking to government to add further funding and policy weight to the Modern Manufacturing Strategy and will detail specific measures in the AFGC’s 2022-23 Pre-Budget submission,” says Ms Barden.

“Our industry is already sustaining Australia, providing the essentials that we all rely on every day but this is an industry that can feed the nation’s future too.

“As we consider how to rebuild after the massive disruptions of Covid-19 it is vital to back a vision for a smart, sovereign food and grocery manufacturing industry that not only provides essentials at home but offers our best to the world and secures our place in it.”

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