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Australia needs a management skills upgrade

By: Jim Griffiths
08 April, 2012

Innovation capability is the key to Australia's future success in manufacturing and other sectors, according to Professor Roy Green, Dean of the UTS Business School and Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemical Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Speaking at the launch of Dow's Advanced Manufacturing Plan for Australia recently in the UTS Great Hall, Professor Green noted that Australia currently lags the rest of the world in management skills.
"We fall behind the rest of the world most in the 'instilling a talent mind set' category, which is a proxy for innovation capacity," he said.
"How can we build up the skills of our managers particularly in the SME (small and medium enterprises) sector? Big companies like Dow can help us with supply chain development, government can help by promoting management capability, and business schools like UTS can create the next generation of leaders."
Manufacturing, he noted, is an important component of improving economic performance across the board, as it has an impact on our terms of trade, and roughly a quarter of Australian research and development is carried out by the sector.
"It is clear from the experience of successful developed economies that high productivity and high-skill manufacturing are essential drivers of technological change and innovation and create long-term growth and jobs in both manufacturing and related services," Professor Green said.
"While the high exchange rate associated with the current commodity boom may be more than a temporary aberration – putting intense pressure on our trade-exposed industries – we know that this boom like others before it will eventually run its course."
For Andrew Liveris, who recently joined the UTS Business School's Advisory Board, investing in innovation through investing in education is paramount.
"Enhancing education, attracting talent, is what keeps me awake at night," Liveris said.

"Australia needs to develop newer, better ways to develop talent, and to develop talent for the jobs of tomorrow.
"We need to be teaching techniques which are relevant to tomorrow's needs."
Education is one of five parts of the Dow strategy for Australia to significantly grow advanced manufacturing.
The Dow Advanced Manufacturing Plan is a comprehensive set of policies designed to stimulate domestic and foreign investment and growth in Australia's manufacturing sector, set against a shrinking sector.
The Plan proposes that Australia take advantage of its vast natural resources to create a global competitive advantage in manufacturing by investing more in innovation; maximising value add from energy feedstocks; enhancing education and skills, and attracting talent; increasing access to global markets; and creating public private partnerships.
According to Liveris, the Advanced Manufacturing Plan is intended to serve as a guide for policy makers to encourage them to pursue a range of policies to grow high-value manufacturing, including a "fair go" for local energy consumers, an end to subsidies to uncompetitive industries and a greater emphasis on linking science and education to investment goals.
Dow intends to present the document to the Australian Government in the hope it can serve as a blueprint for economic sustainability.
"Australia has all the building blocks of a global leader; a vast array of natural resources, a highly talented workforce and a strong commitment to the rule of law," Liveris said.

"We cannot afford to squander these benefits."
The Dow Advanced Manufacturing Plan for Australia was launched before an audience of Australian business leaders and government representatives, and UTS industry partners and academics.

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Graeme | Wednesday, April 11, 2012, 2:34 PM
My experience working in training and consultancy tells me that the vast majority of Australian managers have a very blinkered approach. There is no real long term planning. The longest planning cycle seems to be the end of month and did we make budget. The knowledge and expertise exists in this country to make every business organisation more efficient and more productive. Unfortunately its a no pain no gain situation where time needs to be spent to make the improvements. I have seen many improvements made which are lost over time because of narrow vision and a lack of focus to sustain those improvements. I was a manager for 30 years and I can say that most managers are so focussed on the bottom line that they cannot see how to improve it!