Rewiring the Nation? Not without apprentices, sparkies warn

Male worker supervises young male apprentice doing electrical work (apprentices)
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Australia’s energy transition will fail unless the federal government aggressively trains more apprentice electricians, the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has warned, as a major new report points to the immense scale of the challenge.

The ETU has pointed to a severe skills shortfall that poses a major threat to the nation’s climate goals. Australia needs an additional 32,000 electricians by 2030, and another 85,000 by 2050, according to Jobs and Skills Australia.

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The Rewiring The Nation initiative requires 10,000km of transmission lines to be built. There are just 32 apprentice transmission linesworkers in training. Australia needs an extra 20,000 electrical apprentices each year for the next three years, based on current completion rates, which represents a 240% increase.

ETU National Secretary Michael Wright said it was clear the skills crisis would not be solved through migration.

“Instead of sinking taxpayer dollars into ineffective programs, the government must work hand in hand with those on the ground, doing the actual work.

“Reviving a culture of training is our ticket to becoming the renewables superpower we should be. We need more sparkies to keep our future bright.”

Clean Energy Council CEO Kane Thornto, said that amid heightened global competition for the skilled workforce needed to build Australia’s clean energy transition, purposeful action must be taken to fulfil capability gaps in the workforce.

“Attracting and recruiting more skilled workers, including electricians and apprentices, will be central to the success of Australia’s clean energy transformation, as well as demonstrating our solid commitment to getting the job done,” he said.

Clean Energy Council director of workforce development Dr Anita Talberg said resolute action to attract the new talent, particularly across STEM fields and construction is needed to fulfil the capability gaps that currently exist in Australia’s clean energy workforce.

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“The next seven years will be critical in establishing or strengthening the education, training, and migration systems to ensure that we have the workforce to deliver the energy transition,” Dr Talberg said.

“We look forward to working with Jobs and Skills Australia and other Commonwealth departments and agencies to coordinate an approach towards building out the clean energy workforce over the next few decades tailored to industry needs, particularly across the engineering and electrical fields.”

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