Australia has a long industry of involvement in the manufacturing industry, which, at its peak in the 1960s, contributed about a quarter of Australia’s gross domestic product. Over recent years, much of the attention has been on high-profile closures, with domestic automobile manufacturing facilities set to disappear by the end of this decade. However, it’s not all bad news: the CSIRO has argued that the manufacturing industry is in a state of transformation, not decline. Some of the major new manufacturing areas include advanced materials, sensors, and smart robotics. Australian manufacturers also produce textiles, metal products, chemicals, and printed media.
The shared objective of most manufacturing organisations is the conversion of raw material into a new product that can be sold on to retailers, other organisations, or consumers.
Manufacturing businesses cover every step in the process, working closely with transport and logistics companies to ensure an efficient supply chain. For example, businesses in the textile manufacturing space are responsible for sourcing the raw materials (such as cotton and polyester) used to create apparel and textile products; processing it to create fibres and threads; weaving and knitting them to create fabrics; and using them to produce apparel, as well as non-apparel products such as carpets, towels, sheets, and curtains. Similarly, chemical manufacturing companies turn raw chemicals into paints, synthetic materials (like plastics and polystyrene), cleaning preparations, agricultural chemicals, and a range of other products.
Given the complexity of manufacturing, many large organisations in this space rely heavily on professionals who have specific technical skills, such as chemists and engineers. They often find themselves in roles related to machine maintenance, product inspection and quality assurance, materials analysis, research and development, equipment operation, and a range of other technical, administrative, managerial, and support areas. Where do manufacturing professionals work? Manufacturing jobs are located primarily in factories, with research and development professionals more likely to work in quiet laboratories and professionals involved in product creation or assembly more likely to work in production environments. Most Australian manufacturing organisations are found in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. There you’ll find industry leaders such as DuluxGroup (paints and pigments), BHP (smelted metals), and Rosella (foodstuffs).
There are several companies in the Australian manufacturing sector that offer graduate entry programs. These include Prysmian Group (cable manufacturing), Cochlear (speciality medical equipment), Boral (building materials), Bluescope Steel (metals), Orica (mining materials) and SPC Ardmona (food and beverages). More often, roles in the manufacturing industry are filled via a direct application, with engineers, programmers, and people with CAD drawing skills in, particularly high demand.
As mentioned above, the overall prospects of the Australian manufacturing industry have been a controversial topic over the past ten years or so. However recent research has revealed encouraging signs of growth, with a 4.1% growth since 2013 and projected growth expected to continue until 2023 at a rate of 0.9%. Areas with higher full-time employment rates include food product manufacturing and machinery and equipment manufacturing. Your own career in the manufacturing sector could see you pursue supervisory engineering or technical roles; senior managerial, business, and financial occupations; or team leader positions in research and development or product testing.
An engineering degree is indispensable if you wish to pursue competitive technical graduate roles in this sector. Having said that, the value of your STEM degree will shift based on the field of manufacturing in which your prospective employer is involved.
For example, a background in chemistry might be very appealing to a paint manufacturer but considered non-essential in a textiles-focused organisation. Similarly, acquisition of a degree in metallurgy or materials engineering is a surefire way to apply competitively for graduate metal or machinery manufacturing jobs. However, they may be of limited use in food manufacturing.
If there is but a tenuous link between your STEM degree and your target job, for a greater job outlook, you may benefit from drawing attention to any desirable generic skills you’ve developed. These could include attributes related to communication, problem-solving, patience, teamwork, and critical thinking skills.
Salaries in the manufacturing sector change based on the branch of manufacturing (for example, pharmaceuticals or plastics), your position and employer. As a general guide, graduates can expect to earn a salary of between $50,000 and $70,000 during their first few years of employment.
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