Skills Forecast

Australian forests are a valuable, sustainable and renewable resource. They are managed by a skilled workforce that is part of the value chain for producing many products that are essential to our daily needs, from housing to paper. The industry is made up of many sectors, all of which have been impacted by the recent bushfires and COVID-19.

The Annual Update to the IRC Skills Forecast and Proposed Schedule of Work (Skills Forecast) includes information about employers’ use of training packages and qualifications, barriers to hiring apprentices and trainees, and reasons behind non-completion rates. It looks at alternative training being delivered, some of which draws on the training package, but is not delivered by registered training organisations.

It also proposes two projects for development in 2021-22. One project will support the skills development of operators responding and assisting with bushfires. The other project proposes an update to the skills standards for sawmilling, timber processing and timber products, to reflect the digital transformation and technological advancement of these sectors. The proposed projects are summarised in the grey box below.

Thank you to everybody that has input into the Annual Update and the proposed projects.

The Annual Update will be submitted from the IRC to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC). The information will be used to update the AISC National Schedule of training package development projects.

View Annual Update

Please email any queries or feedback about the contents of this document to Michelle Clayton

What is a Skills Forecast?

Skills Forecasts describe industry trends, opportunities and challenges, and identify skills gaps and emerging skills needs. They propose a four year plan for reviewing and developing relevant units, skill sets and qualifications across a training package. They are created once every three years, but are updated annually. The Annual Updates identify any specific changes to the industry environment, and to address current priority issues.

Every year in April, the full Skills Forecast or Annual Update is submitted by the relevant IRC to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC). The AISC advises Commonwealth and State Industry and Skills Ministers on the implementation of national vocational education and training policies, and approves nationally recognised training packages.

The AISC draws on this information to update their AISC National Schedule, and to determine future Training Package Projects. View current projects, that have been approved out of previous Skills Forecasts.


Current Skills Forecast

2019 – 2022 Skills Forecast
(click here to see the draft document that was available for feedback from 15 – 29 April 2019, including any comments made)


Skills Forecasts Archive

2020 Annual Update to 2019 – 2022 Skills Forecast

2018 – 2021 Skills Forecast

2017 – 2020 Skills Forecast

2016 – 2019 Four Year Work Plan

Please note: IRC Skills Forecasts were previously called Four Year Work Plans.

Proposed Schedule of Work


Project 1: Sawmilling and Timber Processing

The sawmilling, timber processing and engineered wood products sectors are undergoing rapid digital transformation and technological advancement. The skills required of operators is changing. They need the skills to work with new technologies and produce innovative products such as cross laminated timber (CLT) and glue laminated timber (GLT). The demand for skills to monitor, maintain, optimise and troubleshoot highly specialised automated equipment that moves, grades, assesses, scans, cuts and assembles timber pieces and products is surpassing the need for operators to pass, move, lift, grade, assess, stack, and sort timber and wood products. This project proposes a review of current national qualifications and skills standards to incorporate current skills requirements and to consolidate the number of qualifications and units, to reduce complexity in the training system.

Project 2: Responding and Assisting in Bushfires

Forestry operators hold a key role in assisting with fire mitigation, firefighting, clean up, and clearing operations. They have expertise in the heavy machinery used in both harvesting operations and fire-fighting and support the prevention of bushfire through mechanical thinning. With the frequency and intensity of bushfires in Australia expected to increase, forestry operators and emergency services supervisors need to be effectively trained and ready to respond and assist. New units of competency may need to be developed to address skill gaps such as effective coordination of fire ground operations, maintaining situational awareness and safety during fire ground operations, assessing the hazard of fire-affected trees, and using appropriate techniques when pushing fire-affected trees with heavy machines. Any new units could be exported into other training packages to support job roles outside the forestry industry, which have also expanded to undertake activities assisting with bushfires.

Development Process of IRC Skills Forecasts