Glenn Butcher is the Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing, and the Minister for Water in Queensland. With so much going on in the state under Palaszczuk Government, the very busy Minister found time to speak with AMT magazine.

AMT: As the Queensland Minister for Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water, that is a lot of portfolio space to get your head around first off Minister.  Promise I’ll stay within the walls of manufacturing. Do you find a bit of ‘crossover’?

GB: Definitely – there is lots of crossover and that’s what I want to see. I want to see local manufacturers benefitting from our significant investment in critical infrastructure like water projects, so that benefits to Queensland businesses are seen all the way down the supply chain.

A significant amount of our infrastructure investment occurs outside Southeast Queensland given the decentralised nature of the state. And this is set to continue – as an example, 95% of our $62bn Energy and Jobs Plan will be invested outside SEQ.

That’s why we have a plan and why we keep investing in our grants and support programs so that our local manufacturing businesses can continue to innovate and grow so they can make the most of the opportunities that come through significant government investment in our regions.

As a quick example – to kick off Manufacturing Month, I visited Austrack Equipment, a Queensland business that manufactures SafeVac pipe lifting machines. These machines are on site, lifting the pipes for the $983m Fitzroy to Gladstone pipeline. A great Queensland business, supplying to a Queensland project, and creating more jobs for Queenslanders.

AMT: Now I understand Queensland’s Manufacturing Month is well underway. Can you tell me what Manufacturing Month is all about?

Glenn Butcher: Absolutely, I love talking about manufacturing. As a fitter and turner by trade I have worked in manufacturing most of my life. I am really proud to be Queensland’s Manufacturing Minister and part of a government that’s dedicated an entire month to celebrating manufacturing. Manufacturing is a $20bn industry, that provides 180,000 Queenslanders with good, secure jobs so there’s a lot to celebrate

The Palaszczuk Government is a strong backer of local manufacturing. Between our Made in Queensland and Manufacturing Hubs Grant programs, we’re investing nearly $130m directly into local businesses, supporting over 6,500 jobs. That number is projected to grow to over 10,000 jobs in the next five years. Our investment is helping Queensland manufacturers grow, be globally competitive and increasing productivity and innovation. Because if we can make it here in Queensland – we should.

Our work to cement Queensland’s position as a global manufacturing leader includes increasing the profile of Queensland’s manufacturers. The industry has spoken loud and clear – they need more skilled workers and they want to attract school leavers and change traditional perceptions of what it means to be a manufacturer.

This is what Manufacturing Month is all about. Throughout September, manufacturing events are taking place across Queensland, showcasing what our manufacturers are capable of.

That includes our expanded Inside Advanced Manufacturing Program, where some of Queensland’s top manufacturers opened their doors to showcase their innovative manufacturing practices to other manufacturers. I attended events at AMEC Plastics at the Gold Coast, Rheinmetall at Redbank, Zone RV in Coolum and Baywood in Maryborough and I can tell you the feedback was awesome. The manufacturers in attendance saw first-hand advanced manufacturing techniques and had an opportunity to build networks and foster collaboration between local manufacturers.

We then held a showcase at Parliament House attended by over 150 manufacturers and 24 exhibitors which was a huge success and we’ve got more great events planned throughout the rest of September.

AMT: I hear there has been a recent partnership with the Gold Coast Titans NRLW team?

GB: Yes, this month I was excited to combine two of my favourite things – manufacturing and NRL when I launched the Palaszczuk Government’s new partnership with the Gold Coast Titans NRLW team at Cbus Stadium.

The new partnership will promote our Women in Manufacturing Mentor Program providing young women in school a chance to be matched with industry professionals to help them build confidence, develop their career and expand their networks.  It will also promote the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Toolkit, which is helping employers looking to diversity their workforce, improve resilience and reduce turnover.

We know more needs to be done to increase the number of women in manufacturing so this is a key focus for us. The Titans players are fantastic role models of success and resilience in traditionally male dominated fields. This is about increasing the profile of women because whether its strapping on footy boots or steel caps, you can’t be what you can’t see.

AMT: More broadly, can you elaborate on what the Women in Manufacturing Strategy is and why it is important?

GB: From the shop floor to leadership positions, we know women are valuable and crucial to innovation and growth, but the industry has historically faced challenges in attracting and retaining women.

On International Women’s Day this year, I launched the Women in Manufacturing Strategy, which is designed to address this very issue.  It aims to attract, train and retain women in the manufacturing industry by focusing on increasing participation in traditionally male dominated roles and to reduce barriers.

We understand that the key to increasing numbers starts by promoting an inclusive culture, where employees feel valued and that is what our Strategy is all about. We’re achieving this through four priority areas:

  • Supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the manufacturing industry;
  • Building on our existing capabilities and skills to further women’s leadership and development;
  • Boosting women’s participation in Vocational Education and Training, building the STEM pipeline, and promoting advanced manufacturing capabilities throughout secondary and tertiary studies; and
  • celebrating and showcasing the women in Queensland’s manufacturing industry.

The numbers show women are still vastly under-represented in technician and trades roles – this is what we are working to change.

AMT: By 2026, Queensland will be international market leaders in the delivery of advanced manufacturing technologies, systems, products and services that are innovative, sustainable, and embedded in local and global supply chains.  How is the ‘Advance Queensland Initiative shaping up?

GB: The Advance Queensland Initiative is a strategy to drive diversity, strengthen regional growth and create jobs. It has laid the foundation for innovation to happen in Queensland. It has supported the creation, scale up and international success of many Queensland researchers, innovators and businesses.

Now is the time to build on this success and further accelerate Queensland’s future economy and jobs growth through innovation. The Innovation for a Future Economy 2022-2032 Roadmap is for everyone in Queensland’s innovation ecosystem. It will help drive a strong, resilient and inclusive Queensland economy.

Some of the key achievements from the Roadmap in my portfolio area include:

–           The delivery of the Made in Queensland Grants Program and the Manufacturing Hubs Grant Program;

–           The delivery of the Commercial Manufacturing Accelerator Voucher Scheme. This is a partnership with James Cook University where local manufacturers can take their business to the next level, by offering them up to $25,000 to develop, test and modify prototypes, before going to production.

–           The delivery of the Women in Manufacturing Strategy.

In the coming decades, Queensland’s manufacturing industry will face new challenges, realise new opportunities and continue to diversify. The revised Advanced Manufacturing 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan sets a path for Queensland manufacturers to respond to these changes, drive economic growth and create jobs. It contains 19 actions in five key strategy areas to address these challenges and position manufacturers to grasp new opportunities to grow their business and create jobs.

This includes transitioning to a low carbon economy, increasing diversity and accessing supply chain opportunities in the emerging green energy sector as part of the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan and the Olympics and Paralympics.

I know our manufacturers are at the forefront of innovative manufacturing processes. I see it when I visit manufacturers across the state. I recently visited Zone RV, a business that received a grant through our Made in Queensland grant program. The grant enabled them to purchase the largest 3D printer in the Southern Hemisphere. At 20 metres long, five metres wide and two metres high this equipment is impressive.  It is allowing them to bring their innovative ideas to life by printing the castings used to create the moulds for the component parts for their caravans. Not only has it meant 99 more local jobs, but it’s making them global leaders in caravan manufacturing and opening doors to new possibilities.

AMT:  Of course, we’re all looking ahead to the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games bringing more identification to the Queensland brand. Again, where can manufacturers become involved?

GB:  As a government, our focus on local procurement has always been strong. We have had a local purchasing policy since 2017, focused on supporting local businesses. We know that as a Government, we have significant purchasing power and we must make sure it is working to create and support quality, secure jobs for Queenslanders – to buy from local businesses, suppliers, and manufacturers.   We must also ensure that we secure increased value for Queenslanders from every procurement dollar spent. The Olympic and Paralympic Games will be no exception.

There are incredible opportunities to be had for our manufacturers. With major upgrades happening to get Queensland Games-ready, we are going to need manufacturers building everything from the podiums, to the medals, to the cupboards in the athletes’ rooms, the chairs in the stadium, the food we are serving and everything in between.

Manufacturers are being urged to start the journey to being 2032-ready now. To be considered as a supplier, businesses will need to be able to report their carbon footprint and be able to demonstrate sustainability measures.

The Q2032 Procurement Strategy has been launched, explaining how businesses can get themselves ready now to become suppliers to the 2032 Olympic Games.