This page belongs to: National Rail Procurement and Manufacturing Strategy

Pillar 6: Establish the foundation for good jobs and rewarding careers in rail manufacturing

Competition for skilled workers is currently strong and likely to intensify over the next decade. Job stability, investment in apprentice training, development of career pathways and workforce retention are being undermined by uncoordinated investment decisions across jurisdictions, as well as negative perceptions about the quality of employment opportunities in the sector. 

Independent of other economic shifts, the other priorities of the government (including AUKUS, the National Reconstruction Fund and Industry Growth Program-led industrial investments and the shift to net zero and associated infrastructure requirements) will intensify the competition for workers through the life of the strategy and into the next decade. 

The workforce is ageing, predominately male, lacks cultural diversity and is not being renewed at sufficient scale. Meanwhile, the skills required by a modern rail manufacturing sector are changing and increasingly need capability in new technologies. 

Beyond whole of government coordination of research and planning through Jobs and Skills Australia, and the coordination of industry engagement through Jobs and Skills Councils, the rail manufacturing sector must collaborate to set out a shared approach across businesses, unions, state and territory governments, experts and education institutions to workforce challenges. This includes: 

  • creating good jobs and sustainable careers which attract and retain high quality new entrants to the industry
  • identifying deficits and potential improvements to workplace culture, including a focus on more collaborative workplace relationships, a shared approach to higher productivity and adoption of new technology and skills
  • improving the participation of women and under-represented groups through inclusive recruitment and retention strategies, and making the required changes to workplaces
  • engaging with other government and industry programs around skills and training to ensure that existing work addresses the needs of the rail manufacturing sector.

Related skills and workforce initiatives

Jobs and Skills Australia provides independent advice on current, emerging, and future workforce, skills and training needs. It works with unions, employers, state and territory governments, and education and training providers to improve skills development, employment opportunities and economic growth.

Jobs and Skills Councils (JSCs) will provide industry with a stronger voice to ensure Australia’s education and training sectors deliver better outcomes for students and employers. The Transport and Logistics JSC and Manufacturing JSC will bring together employers, unions, and governments to help find solutions to skills and workforce challenges, including in the rail sector.

National Rail Skills Hub (led by the NTC and partners) aims to address the challenge of a looming skills and labour shortage identified in the National Rail Action Plan. The hub will coordinate current industry and government training initiatives and activities.

The strategy does not seek to duplicate existing work across government. However, given the importance of skilled workers to delivering the strategy, and developing reliable national rail manufacturing capability, the National Rail Manufacturing Advocate, ONRIC and the Rail Innovation Council will work with stakeholders to ensure a joint approach to workforce development.

Action 1: Support the rail manufacturing sector to address skill shortages and to attract and retain talent.

Sub-action Timeframe

Engage with and provide advice to relevant Jobs and Skills Councils and the National Transport Commission, to ensure their initiatives:

  • address skills challenges in the rail manufacturing sector 
  • provide training options that deliver high-quality skills as part of recognised frameworks that support long-term career opportunities.
Q2 2024

Gather stakeholder views and consult with experts and state and territory governments about measures to:

  • improve the participation of women through modern recruitment and retention practices 
  • create more inclusive workplaces for women and other under-represented groups.
Q3 2024

Develop a model workforce development strategy that responds to identified challenges within the rail manufacturing sector and is informed by best practice models in related industries. 

  • Include a focus on developing long-term, sustainable careers, more collaborative workplace relationships, more inclusive workplaces, a shared approach to higher productivity growth and adoption of new technology and skills.

Promote and support adoption of the model by companies across the rail manufacturing supply chain.

Q4 2024