A Brief Chronology of Plastics Industry Training and the QPITC

This “History” has new sections added each year. Prior history remains as it was originally published.

  1. In the mid 1970’s the Plastic Institute of Australia (PIA) took up the offer of Federal Government assistance to help the plastics industry address the growing problem of training needs.
  2. A National Plastics Training Committee was formed in 1978, and operated temporarily from the PIA offices in Melbourne, later at a separate location.
  3. In the late 1970’s a State Government Plastics Training Committee was formed in Queensland.
  4. The Queensland Committee was originally a group of volunteers from Industry, Government and the AWU.
  5. In 1983, the QPITC applied for a Federal Government subsidy to assist with the cost of employing a full-time executive officer to carry out the day-to-day work for the Committee. Gavin Henderson took early retirement from Monsanto and accepted the job.
  6. In July, 1984, Roger Cater took over from Gavin Henderson, who moved to A.C. Hatrick Chemicals Pty. Ltd.
  7. In 1985, the QPITC became an incorporated association. Its charter is to do whatever is necessary to improve the level of skills and knowledge of the people working in the Plastics Industry in Queensland.
  8. The QPITC levies no fees. It costs nothing to join, just a willingness to help realise the training goals for the industry’s benefit.
  9. At this stage (1984) QPITC is limited by charter to 25 registered members but its associate members number many many more.
  10. With Government assistance, QPITC commissioned a local consultant “Strategies” to survey the industry and report on training needs to the year 1990. The “Strategies Report” recommended the creation of a single “centre of excellence” skills training centre in Brisbane.
  11. In 1985 the QPITC crystallised the concept and a strategy for managing the skills centre, and put a detailed proposal to the Queensland Government.
  12. The Queensland Government, in 1986, provided $100,000 to assist with the setting up of a temporary skills centre, in a leased warehouse in South Brisbane.
  13. In 1987, the first training course commenced for injection moulders. As with the six main training courses, this was around 100 hours’ duration, taught to a nationally recognised curriculum.
  14. Since then the other five courses (with the exception of Composites FRP) have commenced.
  15. In 1988, 70 students graduated and 5,500 student hours of industry specific training was delivered.
  16. In 1988, the QPIT Committee was formally recognised by both Queensland (as a first) and Federal Government as their adviser on training matters for plastics in Queensland.
  17. In 1989, a traineeship (1 year apprenticeship) in Composites FRP was arranged to start using temporary facilities at Ithaca TAFE. Traineeships for cavity moulding, fabrication, and extrusion processes followed. Sub-committees of the QPITC work on these with the Government people and are to be congratulated for their results.
  18. In 1990 it is widely acknowledged that this industry requires a substantial ongoing training effort. Industry support is very gratifying. A great leveller and common bond between all sectors of the industry.
  19. In 90% of cases student fees have been met by their employers.
  20. The high capital cost of providing machinery and keeping it up to date is a great problem, however.
  21. The QPITC has steadfastly stuck to the clear instructions from the Plastics Industry – “Help us get our own training centre, managed in the way that we understand.”
  22. In 1990, the QPITC formed PARTEC (QId) Pty. Ltd., to build a new training centre, and manage it, as a specialist polymer process training operation.
  23. The relationship between QPITC and the Composites Association is very close.
  24. The Plastic Skills Centre’s creation and growth has also assisted the re-growth of the Composites Institute in Queensland.
  25. It is intended that the Skills Centre will be a focus for the Plastics Industry, an industry which officially did not previously exist. It will be an operation with many spin-off benefits for raw material suppliers, machinery suppliers, and the customers of the processors.
  26. In 1990, the Federal Government’s Department of Education and Training agreed to subsidise the building of a new Skills Centre with $815,000 and the Queensland Government provided land on a 20-year lease basis. The “PARTEC Building” as it is known, was virtually completed by the end of the 1990-91 financial year.
  27. In October, 1991, the QPITC members held their first general meeting in their own Skills Centre. They are the owners of it. This was a milestone event.
  28. The QPITC registered as a trading name, the more generic term “PLASTICS-ITC”, the Government acronym being “ITAB” indicating its status as an Industry Training Advisory Body.
  29. By early July, 1992, PARTEC was able to offer part-time courses of 80 hours minimum duration for each of the 5 plastics industry sectors, and four traineeship courses for young people starting work in the Plastics Industry.
  30. The “PARTEC Project” 2/3 completed (at Stage 1) by September, 1992.
  31. In 1993, the four traineeship courses were updated and changed into one open-aged Career Start Traineeship – the Certificate in Plastics, (NTB-0361) which had a common core, and then allowed students to stream into detailed subjects suitable to their industry sector.
  32. During the financial year to June, 1994, the three-year State Government subsidisation arrangement for PARTEC ended, and extra assistance was negotiated for another year.
  33. During 1994 Plastics-ITC Board and staff, together with PARTEC staff, were able to develop a professional business plan for PARTEC, and a land-mark enterprise bargaining agreement. Administration and management issues of the two organisations were streamlined and improved as a result of these projects.
  34. The Industry Training Plan 1996-2000 developed by QPITC in February, 1995, was incorporated into Queensland Government Planning for the first time.
  35. A review of “ITAB” boundaries and Industry coverage by ANTA recommended that a “Queensland Process Manufacturing Industry Training Advisory Board” (QPM-ITAB) be set up to cover plastics, chemicals, clay, cement, concrete products, and others, over two years from December, 1995.
  36. Federal Government funding sponsored development of National Certificates, covers nine different sectors of the plastics industry. All States worked on this project.
  37. In 1996, QPITC adapted these National Certificates to a three (3) tier traineeship system (The apprenticeship we never had.)
  38. Development, and lodgement of the 1997-2001 Industry Training Plan for Process Manufacturing Industries. This was written as three plans, one each for the Plastics Industry, the Chemical and Oil Industry, and for Manufactured Building Products Sector, as required by the additional industry coverage delegated to the ITAB.
  39. In 1997, the Extrusion Committee of the ITAB solved the problem of training for workers on rotating shifts, and expanded the training for this sector.
  40. The ITAB was a key participant in the drafting of the new State Award incorporating trade qualifications and new trade descriptions in 1997.
  41. In 1998 Government subsidisation of training for existing Plastics Industry Workers became a reality, putting them on an equal footing with “traditional” trade-based industry employees.
  42. In 1998 a record peak of over 100 new Plastics processing trainee-apprentices in training, was achieved for Queensland.
  43. During the period 1997-99 a new Federal Government was elected, and Queensland also saw two changes of State Government. The opening of the industry training market was a messy failure. Reactive policy changes to the rules for trainees counteracted years of work by the ITAB to foster growth of a training culture in the extrusion and injection sectors, and there were severe reactions from employers.
  44. From the initial support given by the Commissioner for Training, Mr. Hauenschild, in May, 1999, and with the ongoing support of the AWU and the QCCI, three new trades were created in February 2000. These were the first new trades in Manufacturing Industry for at least 50 years.
  45. The three new trades, Extrusion Technician, Injection Moulding Technician, Composites Technician, are now the envy of industry in other States. The quality of these trade qualifications is recognised as the best in Australia.
  46. The PARTEC Project moved into its tenth year since the building was officially opened in September, 1991.
  47. During the 2002-2003 financial year we experienced opposition to our Technician Trades from the Australian Industry Group (AIG) and the State Government temporarily extinguished the apprenticeships for these Trades pending the introduction of a new Training Package.
  48. During the first half of calendar 2003 the first ever Composites Technicians finished their training.
  49. In 2003, the newly created “little PARTEC’ became sufficiently established in Townsville to have twelve (12) Composite Technician Apprentices, and require planning to move to larger premises.
  50. The year 2003 also saw the creation of five (5) new Trade Apprenticeships so that eight (8) Apprenticable Trade areas became available to the Plastics Industry for the first time in Queensland.
  51. In 2003 – a major three (3) year effort to get Toolmaking training facilities at PARTEC was finalised with the official opening of the most modern training toolroom in Queensland.
  52. In May, 2004, the Queensland Department of State Development indicated that it would like to support the development of a new five (5) year strategy for the plastics industry. with PARTEC/QPITC as the industry co-ordinating agency. This did not go ahead as planned.
  53. The State Government (DET) in 2004, indicated that it would develop new skills formation advisory functions. This could affect the operations of the PLASTICS-ITC.
  54. In 2007, PARTEC Townsville moved into larger premises at Unit 1, 5 Civil Road, GARBUTT Qld.
  55. Composites training at Masig (Yorke) Island, Torres Strait Commenced in 2005 and ceased in 2007.
  56. For 2006-2007 Polytec LeHunt plastic pipeline welding training in Queensland is now over 10,000 hours annually. Essential work was put into getting this included in the Plastics, Rubber and Cable-making Training Package as Nationally Recognised Training, some five (5) years ago, (2002).
  57. Planning advice provided by QPITC to PARTEC in 2007, featured a major need to purchase new capital equipment and take a quantum step into the 21st Century.
  58. In 2008, the precision machining training capability at PARTEC was raised with purchase of a t5-Axis’ DMU SOT.
  59. In 2009. the QPITC purchased a new Instron for the PARTEC materials testing laboratory.
  60. In the 2009-2010 year we saw the greatest (33%) reduction in the number of apprentices in training in the industry due to the “GFC”.
  61. A new TEKCELL 3 axis, 2400 x 1200 x 150 router went into service for use by apprentices in Plastic Fabrication and Composites.
  62. NATA Certification was achieved for the PARTEC materials testing laboratory in 2011.
  63. Plastics-ITC members revised the Tooling Designer course and provided the real-project training resources.
  64. 2010: Special training programs were developed for welding the waterproof membrane for the Airport Link Tunnel with “Bluey Technologies”.
  65. 2011: The “Business Transformation” (Queensland Government) project to provide 21st Century training facilities was finished.
  66. 2012: A Level 4 qualification for graduate Level 3 Composites Technicians was developed for PARTEC with four (4) students in the trial.
  67. 2013: Our trade apprenticeships began to suffer as collateral damage to the Federal Government rule-change for the incentive subsidy for employers to indenture our apprentices. The training statistics for 1997, ’98 & ’99 show the downturn in traineeships from a similar rule change.
  68. 2013: The number of apprentices graduated since these trade courses were declared by Queensland reached 300, and a new “credit card” accreditation award was introduced.
  69. After 5 years’ trial development, the ‘Conveyor Belt Technician’ apprenticeship is now a valued qualification in the Queensland Mining Industry.
  70. Staying ahead of the great deal of “churn” in the Commonwealth and State VET system is taking our resources away from new product development.
  71. 2014: The Queensland Government introduced an industry upskilling program based on a dollar-for-dollar co-contribution, with the QPITC being the eligible Industry Association manager for Polymer Technology Support.
  72. The QPITC set the guidelines for its industry start-up assistance using Polymer Technology, within the over-arching policy of economic development through training.
  73. 2015: The long-running State Government subsidy of short courses taken from within the Trade Apprenticeships has tapered off, and ceased as of December. A revised application has been submitted.
  74. The Trade Recognition program, which was used to Qualify employers so that they could employ an apprentice, has over the last few years evolved into a subsidised employment assistance contract which has lost sight of the real original purpose.
  75. The State Government behaviour, across both the Newman and Palaszczuk governments has been consistent with both helpfulness and financial bullying in equal measure.
  76. 2016: The Certificate IV in Polymer Technology was declared as an apprenticeship in Queensland, and this is an important achievement to underpin advanced composites in aerospace and other important areas, such as Prosthetics and Orthotics Technicians.
  77. The certificate IV Apprenticeship in Polymer technology was conceived but was still-borne, however, because there was, at that time, no formal State Government mechanism, for setting a reasonable price for a newly-created Apprenticeship.
  78. 2017: In November, a commercially valid price was approved for the Cert IV Polymer Technology Apprenticeship with help from the special unit (QATO), the Queensland Apprenticeship and Traineeship Office, of the Department, and letters of support from many QPITC and industry members.
  79. Traditionally, only a qualified tradesperson can indenture an apprentice in the same trade. This was a major roadblock in the case of newly-minted Plastics Industry trades, however, with a lot of letters of support from industry members, QATO developed a system to allow a “due-diligence” authorisation by QPITC using industry-specialist peer reviewed guidance, (Form ATF-013 POLY), to allow the apprentices to be indentured to an approved employer.
  80. For release in 2018, Graeme Warner, (QPITC member #5, now retired), wrote and student-tested, an 18-booklet plastic basics course text for mechanical engineering students. QPITC will hold the copyright and sell the booklets on the internet from the website. ($2.70 each, #2- #18, free for #1.)
  81. 2019: The PMB Training Package for the Plastics Industry sets the Industry-Approved job descriptions for Trade Qualifications.  The Plastics-ITC has stepped up to lead the current PMB review and update the tech.
    This Review is a big and controversial job, but we have support from our new Queensland Government Department for Small Business, Employment and Training, known as DESBT.  Vocational Training (VET) is no longer part of the Education Department.
  82. 2019: The “ATF-013 POLY” approval (see #79) was formally recognised and included in the revised Queensland VET Act approved by Parliament in November. This event is solid evidence of the Government support for our industry.
  83. 2020: The COVID-19 cash-feed from the ATO was a brilliant strategy which enabled us to work through the crisis. Many plastic moulders are now very busy, having picked up good business from May 2020, after the initial slump. And they are putting on new apprentices to keep pace with demand.
  84. 2020: The review of the PMB plastic processing training package took almost 3 years, and it is awaiting finalisation of the operational aspects with State and Federal Govts. The review did not generate any formal “Skillsets”, which are short courses from the trade technologies. We have applied to write up drafts and get a trial of a few short-course skillsets in Queensland to be delivered by Partec Institute.
  85. 2021: The influence on business arrangements from COVID-19 is being managed by a “steady-as-she-goes” policy with regard to the formal Association Activities. The Plastics Industry is, however, running at high activity and everyone is busy. This is good.
  86. 2021: We have arranged the formation of a new Association, using our prior experience. The new body is the “Prosthetics and Orthotics Technicians Association” (IA 60156). The trade and advanced trade are specialisations of Plastic Fabrication Apprenticeship and are being trained at Partec Institute. Plastic technology application is becoming widespread in the Healthcare Sector.
  87. 2023: The Federal Government initiated a review of data collections for jobs, occupations and skills shortages, using new analytical software and real-world auditing to validate the results. This is good news for the “invisible” plastics industry, as we finally have real published data on which to base Government training assistance and business decisions. The 2023 Jobs and Skills Australia Priority List (ANZSCO 2022) now lists the 399916 Plastics Technician as being in a skills shortage (S), and the 2023 Australian Apprenticeship Priority List shows Plastics Technician with its three qualifications, being:
    • PMB30121 Certificate III in Polymer Processing;
    • PMB40121 Certificate IV in Polymer Technology; and
    • PMB50121 Diploma of Polymer Technology.
    In Queensland, the PMB30121 and PMB40121 qualifications cover all of the Government-funded plastics apprenticeships like Composites Technician, Extrusion Technician and Injection Moulding Technician.