Mark Cain

A message from the chief executive – March 2023

Skills and employment in steel

The feature of this edition of steel Australia magazine is Skills and employment in steel.

Australian businesses—including those throughout the steel supply chain—are facing the tightest labour market since the 1970s. With skills shortages impacting everything from productivity, through to economic growth, businesses are implementing a raft of innovative recruitment, retention, upskilling and training programs. The ASI is looking at a range of initiatives to boost skills in the industry and encourage the next generation of workers to consider a career in steel. 

As part of the South Australia Skills Strategy – Steel Industry Reference Group (facilitated by the Department of Education) initiatives, ASI is developing a set of promotional material for Careers in Steel, including presentations, videos and brochures which will be made available for ASI members to use. 

In Tasmania, we will be collaborating with the Tasmanian Minerals, Manufacturing and Energy Council (TMEC) to jointly promote careers in trades across the steel and manufacturing industries.

In February, the ASI provided a letter of support to University of Wollongong (UOW) for a funding application under the Federal Government’s Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship grants. The funding will support the LIFT program—an important step in addressing the barriers to participation and retention of women entering STEM industries within Australia. This funding application was successful, and the ASI is in discussion with UOW in regards to delivering the practical support committed.  

The ASI has established a Diversity and Inclusiveness Group, which recently held its first meeting. Four people provided an overview of the strategies they have employed to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, whilst others shared some brief experiences on the topic. The output from the meeting will be used to create resources for ASI members. 

In response to member feedback, we are facilitating industry-led training and certification programs designed to develop much-needed skills and expertise in various aspects of steel manufacturing, assembly and installation. Just some of these training initiatives include courses for roll forming, steel detailers, shed builders and an introduction to steel

With Australia’s borders now re-opened, businesses can take advantage of various business sponsorship visas. ASI has also developed a resource pack to help members. 

Australian Steel Convention

Steel as the preferred building material and why you should Choose Steel as a career will be key themes at this year’s Australian Steel Convention at Sofitel Melbourne from 10 to12 September 2023. The 2023 Convention will present the ASI Choose Steel campaign – an exciting promotional campaign putting steel at the forefront of the public eye as Australia’s preferred building material – and how you can get involved with your steel solutions.

A young achievers panel will share their career stories – and help shape a new ASI ‘careers-in-steel’ strategy. Plus, project case studies will be back by popular demand, showcasing the innovative solutions across a myriad of project applications and steel product groups. For further information, click on the link included below.

Advocacy work

The ASI continues to advocate on behalf of the Australian steel supply chain on key issues. Energy pricing and security of supply are critical issues for a trade-exposed industry such as Australia’s domestic steel value chain. We continue to work with all levels of government to address these issue.

In the wake of the announcement of the Energy Price Relief Plan, which includes temporarily capping the price of gas and coal, ASI sought feedback from several members. As a result, we provided feedback to Warren Tegg (advisor to Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic) and David Crawford (Heavy Industry Team, Department of Industry, Science and Resources), indicating manufacturing industry support for these measures.

We also met with the Anti-Dumping Commissioner, Dr Brad Armstrong and senior staff from the commission to discuss steel industry matters and the investigations process.

ASI facilitated a meeting with Infrastructure South Australia on the Northern Water Project. The purpose of the meeting was to highlight that the steel requirements for the project can be fulfilled locally using Australian steel. 

The project will include 127,500 tonnes of steel pipe (480km) of various diameters and thicknesses over a three year timeframe. Construction is expected to commence mid-2024.

We also presented to the Star of the South offshore wind farm project forum in Traralgon. Once again, highlighting the capacity and capability of the local steel industry to undertake the project.  

Work is in progress on the next edition of the Victorian Steel Directory which was first published in 2019. The directory will be expanded to encompass distributors, roll formers and reinforcing.  

Promoting a sustainable steel industry 

We recently attended the Federal Government’s Department of Industry, Science and Resources consultation on the National Reconstruction Fund’s (NRF) Value-add in resources group. The Federal Government has earmarked $1 billion for this priority area for development of technologies such as on shore processing of lithium, and recycling of ‘red mud’ residue from bauxite refining. ASI provided a submission on the NRF Corporation Bill 2022. 

The key recommendations were that the Federal Government should: declare the Australian steel industry as being a priority area of the Australian economy; and make a direction that $3 billion will be available for investment in the Australian steel industry. This will enable the steel industry to play its part in delivering a net zero economy whilst ensuring the development of a sovereign and sustainable steel industry.

The ASI was invited to attend the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water Adaptation and New Industries Division roundtable meeting. The purpose of the roundtable was to discuss the design of the new $130 million Carbon Capture Technologies program. 

Steel Sustainability Australia

Steel Sustainability Australia (SSA) opened for applications at the end of January 2023. SSA offers a new certification program that provides a clear pathway for steel businesses to operate more responsibly and transparently while being part of an environmentally and socially sustainable future.

Several organisations have already applied for certification, with the audit process underway. The SSA team has been working with several steel distributors, manufacturers, roll formers and reinforcing steel suppliers on developing business cases and multi-site certification. 

The SSA program was developed by the Australian Steel Institute (ASI). Superseding ASI’s Environmental Sustainability Charter (ESC), the SSA program engages the entire steel value chain by certifying downstream steel businesses such as fabricators, roll formers, and reinforcing processors, and verifying upstream steel producers against best practice environmental, social and governance (ESG) indicators aligned to the principles supporting the Green Building Council of Australia’s (GBCA) Responsible Product Framework. 

Mark Cain
Chief executive, Australian Steel Institute (AS)

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