The Australian chemistry industry is an important source of STEM-based jobs and skills.
Chemicals and plastics play a vital role in society and are used to produce almost everything we consume. The Australian chemistry sector supplies many downstream industries, which means innovations within the industry have a large multiplier effect across the broader Australian economy.
The chemistry sector is a vital contributor to Australia’s employment and economy. It directly supports more than 62,500 full-time equivalent jobs in Australia and underpins a further 212,000 jobs in related supply chains, which are spread across every state and territory.
Source: Acil Allen
STEM based skills are important for innovation in chemistry and for Australia’s future. The Australian economy is changing rapidly due to new developments in technology that are transforming existing industries and driving the emergence of new industries.
A highly skilled STEM workforce will be essential for Australia to maintain its sovereign capability and safeguard its ability to respond to future crises, including managing the challenges associated with climate change and Australia’s transition to net zero.
STEM skills will be central to promoting more efficient use of global resources and to help meet the demands of a growing population. These skills are highly valued in many industries and form the heart of the Australian chemistry industry.
Many of the rewarding and highly skilled jobs in the industry require STEM capability. These include:
- Engineers, including chemical, civil, electrical, maintenance and mechanical
- Manufacturing process technicians
- Manufacturing plant operators
- Regulatory scientists
- Production chemists
- Research chemists
- Research scientists
- Laboratory technicians
- Laboratory assistants
- Materials scientists
- Trades apprentices
- Agriculture technical roles, including field researchers, agronomists and technical sales
Engineering jobs and skills
Australia is facing an unprecedented engineering workforce crisis – the Federal Government is projecting a shortfall of 27,000 engineers in the next five years alone.
It’s a serious issue affecting Australian industry that will have lasting impacts on our future economy, geopolitical strength, and environmental and societal wellbeing.
Group of Eight’s Securing the Future of Australia’s Engineering Workforce report recommends Australia has national priority university places for engineering to ensure we have a domestic engineering workforce capable of meeting the needs of Australian industry now and into the future*.
Engineers are an essential part of Australia’s workforce and will be instrumental in Australia achieving its goals in areas critical to our future. This includes mitigating the impacts of climate change and transitioning to net zero; improving agricultural productivity while supporting more sustainable farming practices; improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions; and growing Australia’s domestic battery manufacturing industry.
Chemistry Australia believes that in order to comprehensively prepare our economy for future industries, we will need the skills and capabilities of world-class engineers. There is an important opportunity for Australia to train more of the engineers that we will certainly need to transition our economy, in our world class engineering faculties.
More information about our policies in this area, please visit Policy Priorities, Education and Skills.
Please also see Chemistry Australia’s submission into the Senate Inquiry into the Higher Education Support Amendment Bill 2020.
* Go8 Securing the Future of Australia’s Engineering Workforce, page 5
Future skills needs
The chemistry industry is a vital part of the Australian economy and will be needed to help transition Australia’s industrial base to climate neutrality, a circular economy, and greater sovereign security. There is continued demand for apprentices, trades and technicians, plant operators, engineers, and executives across the chemistry industry as Australia begins to tackle these complex challenges.
Australia is currently facing skills shortages in many areas of the economy, and the chemistry industry is no different. In a recent survey, Chemistry Australia found that members were experiencing skills shortages across the sector – from forklift drivers, to technologists, manufacturing process technicians, and engineers. Technical and process skills are in particularly high demand.
There is a pressing need for a pipeline of skilled and experienced workers to support growth of the chemistry industry, particularly in the area of manufacturing.
Graduates in industry
Chemistry Australia is invested in ensuring the future workforce for the Australian chemistry sector is well-trained with workplace-ready skills to match the needs of industry.
Chemistry Australia works closely with universities and research institutions to help graduates acquire the skills they need to excel in the chemistry industry. Our university members offer a range of under-graduate and post-graduate programs aimed at providing a real-world experience for students that help them prepare for rewarding careers in chemistry.
Chemistry Australia has partnered with Monash University in the $6M Chemicals and Polymers Manufacturing Innovation Network (C&PMIN). The C&PMIN is centred around Monash's C&P Graduate Research Industry Program (GRIP), which involves a cohort of PhD researchers, all with PhD projects that are closely linked to the industry partners.
ARC Training Centre for the Chemical Industries
The $3.28M ARC Training Centre for the Chemical Industries is a sustainable industry-led research and training program to support the development and competitiveness of Australia’s chemistry industry. The initiative addresses the industry’s need for highly skilled workplace-ready graduates, with a strong understanding of the industry context and experience in conducting industry-focused research.
ARC Training Centre for Green Chemistry in Manufacturing
Chemistry Australia is a partner organisation in the ARC Training Centre for Green Chemistry in Manufacturing, which was launched in November 2021. The Training Centre for Green Chemistry in Manufacturing is an interdisciplinary research and training environment centred on green and sustainable chemistry.