Check out this piece that I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald! (Click for original piece)
The writing has been on the wall for some time for young people in Australia who want to manufacture cars.
"The automotive industry is dead in Australia. Go overseas if you want to get anywhere in this field, or try another sector," automotive veterans and mentors have told me in the past few years.
As a young mechanical engineer who is passionate about motor sport and the automotive industry, I always found this advice disheartening. Given recent events at Toyota, Holden and Ford in Australia, their words are prophetic.
Considering Ford Australia reports that the unit cost of production for Australian-made car models is four times that of Asia and double that of Europe, these closures were inevitable. The mass production system is not viable in today's economic climate and in the face of our competitors.
The question now is not whether or not the government did the right thing by allowing Ford, Holden and Toyota to shut their factory doors and seal the fate of an industry; that point is now moot.
Putting aside ideology, the thinking must now shift towards what manufacturing jobs will look like in future; what frameworks and mechanisms are required to ensure job creation, and if we value manufacturing sufficiently to keep investing in a way that emphasises Australia's natural strengths.
Our primary industries are economic powerhouses that have served us well. Yes, they are strong and dependable but recent trends have shown they are not infallible.
As the resources industry moves from the labour-intensive construction phase to the production phase, which requires fewer employees, it may not be able to meet the demand for jobs, which will be exacerbated by job losses in automotive manufacturing.
Casting our eyes further down the road, as the population ages there will be fewer workers to support a rising number of retirees. The government's 2010 intergenerational report indicates that, by 2050, 23 per cent of the population will be 65 or older.
With an increasing number of older Australians depending on a shrinking population of working-age employees, it is important the economy is diversified to ensure it remains robust in the long term.
We need a clear vision for what the nation will look like in 10, 20 or 30 years time, and what industries we will rely on.
Rather than focusing on the short term, investment should be made in developing the skills, expertise and knowledge base of workers to ensure Australia can compete in global markets.
This includes investment by government, plus developing a culture of private investment and venture capitalism.
If we are to stimulate production of innovative, high-tech and niche products that are within our capacity to create, our appetite for risk and failure will have to be re-examined.
Australia has the potential to be a nation of manufacturing and engineering excellence.
From medical innovations such as the cervical cancer vaccine, to the research and development powerhouse that is the CSIRO, we excel in high-quality technology and manufacturing - but this growth and development does not happen on its own.
Expecting the automotive manufacturing industry to make a painless transition may be unrealistic but if we approach the situation as an opportunity to develop a narrative about what new jobs should look like, and begin to take concrete steps in that direction, the future looks more exciting and optimistic.
More investment in innovative research, more risk-taking, and a focus on high-quality niche products and services - these are the things that will allow us to build a future for the nation.
What do you think?