Government to review regional employment capacity to prevent bottlenecks in energy workforce

Employment opportunities in regional areas are about to get a jolt, with up to 60,000 new clean energy roles expected to overwhelm the existing workforce.

According to a new Commonwealth Government report, the greatest demand will be for electricians, needed to build and maintain the backbone of Australia’s renewable economy.

But alongside them will be a need for expertise in energy efficiency, systems engineering and management.

And Australia won’t be able to rely on immigration to meet the demand as the whole world is undertaking the same energy transition. Between 2015 and 2022, the green energy workforce grew from 9.6 per cent to 13.3 per cent of the world’s jobs, according to LinkedIn’s Global Green Skills Report.

“Australia is going to need thousands of workers every year entering the energy sector to build the massive infrastructure projects our energy grid needs, and meet our emissions reduction targets,” Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, said at the announcement of a review into the shift in workforce demand.

The Australian Energy Market Operator estimates Australia’s eastern states alone will need another 12,000 skilled construction workers before 2025 if planned renewable projects are to be completed on schedule. And an additional 31,000 will need to be in the pipeline to produce and manage an entirely new green hydrogen network. (See AEMO’s roadmap to 100% renewables.)

The presence of training programs to produce them is necessary to give renewable energy industries the confidence to invest in the often remote regions suitable for solar and wind generation.

And the same applies to the hydrogen infrastructure, battery farms, pumped hydro systems and compressed air dams needed to support them. Not to mention the expanded national transmission system.

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Other fast-growing green sector jobs include sustainability managers, environmental health and safety specialists and solar consultants. But that’s likely to be just the first wave, says the Australian National Career Information Service Myfuture.

Also in Cosmos: The wind energy map driving energy workforce for regional Australia

Less specialised skills such as compliance managers, facilities managers and even sales representatives are also under increasing demand. Then there are the accountants, human resources staff and receptionists.

The shift in focus out of metropolitan areas will also need transport, catering and support services to expand their reach. And regional centres must invest in attracting and retaining families to avoid a new “fly-in, fly-out” culture.

The Australian Energy Employment Report (AEER) will conduct a survey of renewable energy and related infrastructure employers to better understand the scale of demand and the scope of skills needed.

This will be used to guide the development of training schemes.

Minister Bowen says 10,000 New Energy Apprenticeships have already been initiated. But a greater understanding of what skills and support they must have, and where they will be working is needed.

“We currently lack the data to forecast accurately how these jobs are changing,” he said. “The findings will give federal, state and local governments insights into the energy job market to help develop policies on jobs, skills development and training opportunities.”

Assistant Minister Jenny McAllister says the energy industry training programs would also seek to improve the participation of women in the sector. They currently comprise less than 39 per cent of the renewable energy workforce.

The AEER survey will remain open until Sunday, April 30.

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