Manufacturing is celebrating a funding win set to boost competitiveness, thanks to the efforts of The Australian Industry Group.

Ai Group’s Queensland Industry Skills Adviser - Manufacturing Wayne Lee has been working with industry and the Queensland Government for the past year to adjust the eligibility setting for two qualifications in Competitive Systems and Practice.

This means a larger proportion of the state’s workforce can be funded for this lean manufacturing training, aimed at making businesses more productive and efficient.

One business already using Competitive Systems training is stainless steel fabrication specialists Stoddart.

HR Manager John Major said it was about changing workers’ mindsets.

“The company is investing a large amount of capital into advanced machinery, but to complement this, we have to maintain lean processes so we can be competitive with overseas markets,” Mr Major said.

“The training educates workers how to think about doing their job more efficiently by doing things such as streamlined processing line.

“In the past, our processes followed traditional methods where products were manufactured on a case-by-case basis.

"Applying lean manufacturing systems enables us to assess our current processes and streamline those processes which caused bottlenecks.

”Allowing workers to complete this training provides them with the tools and understanding of how the systems work within their own environments."

Stoddart currently has 22 employees completing Competitive Systems training across various positions such as machinery operators, salespeople, store people, labourers and in logistics.

Mr Major said the results were impressive.

“We’re seeing great benefits from the changes we’ve made here,” he said.

“There have been massive improvements in lean manufacturing and improvements in people’s thinking of how they do their job.

“Workers are now thinking outside the square while doing their tasks. It’s helping them to understand the reason for working more efficiently.

“It’s about making processes faster which will put the company in a position to win more work due to our competitive and lean processes.

“There’s definitely a link between the training and efficiencies which has allowed us to tender and win work due to our confidence in efficiency.”

The benefit to Stoddart from running the CSP program has seen the lean maturity increase from 16% to 55%. This would reflect an increase in efficiencies and productivity across the business.

The Queensland Government has increased its subsidy for Competitive Systems and Practices training in its latest Priority Skills List, in response to the need and value identified by Mr Lee. 

A Queensland Government spokesperson said making it cheaper for businesses and students to increase their understanding and start applying lean manufacturing principles in the workplace would benefit the sector.

“Our network of Industry Skills Advisors engage with employers, small business and industry stakeholders to provide high-quality, evidence-based advice. Increasing the subsidy for Competitive Systems and Practices is a great example of the Queensland Government supporting more people to take up this training and allowing more manufacturers, large or small, to adopt more efficient practices.”

Mr Major said the whole industry would benefit, especially smaller businesses.

"It’s not just about Stoddart, it’s about manufacturing in Queensland and trying to get it back up and running,” he said.

“Australian manufacturing is drifting away and changes like this can have an impact on its return.

"The cost to put employees through this training can be quite high and not all businesses, especially SMEs, have this type of capital available. These changes will now allow more businesses to access this type of training and hopefully improve their processes."

Mr Major praised Mr Lee for his tireless efforts.

“If it weren’t for Wayne, this would never have gotten off the ground,” Mr Major said.

“He is the one who has driven it all. He knew who to talk to. He knew the structure and where to go. He’s been wonderful; a massive help to Stoddart. I have high praise for him.

“It’s great to see funding come through for something that we know we can benefit from and can put trainees through. We have a lot of employees who are asking to do this.”

The Queensland Department of Employment, Small Business and Training (DESBT), which manages the funding of workplace training, asked Mr Lee last year to identify why the uptake for Competitive Systems training was lower than expected.

“I was very quickly able to identify that the issue was with the priority setting of the funding which precluded much of the workforce from being eligible for that funding through traineeships,” Mr Lee said.

“From an industry perspective, traineeships are the preferred mode of training as they combine off-job and on-job training, similar to an apprenticeship.

“This means the theory the worker receives can be immediately applied and refined in the workplace by a qualified supervisor.”

Before any changes were made, DESBT wanted to consult with industry extensively to confirm the changes would achieve the desired outcome.

“I worked with the Manufacturing Hubs within the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water (DRDMW), and collectively we received feedback from 63 manufacturing businesses from every region in Queensland,” Mr Lee said.

“I analysed the results, which definitively concluded what industry wanted. Discussing it with the DESBT and DRDMW working party resulted in their support for the changes I recommended.

“Stakeholders on the Engineering and the Advanced Manufacturing Industry Reference Groups then endorsed the recommendation, which was submitted to the DESBT Investment Team, who ratified it.”

 

Manufacturing Industry Skills Advisers are employed by Ai Group through funding provided by the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training (DESBT). Industry Skills Advisors (ISAs) engage with employers, small business and industry stakeholders to provide high quality, evidence-based industry advice and intelligence about current and emerging industry direction, regional skills needs and training solutions, jobs growth and employment opportunities.

Wendy Larter

Wendy Larter is the Senior Content Writer at Ai Group. She is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.