Energy transition doomed without aggressive action on apprentices

Australia’s energy transition will fail unless the federal government aggressively trains more 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.

The Rewiring The Nation initiative requires 10,000 kilometres 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.

“The global shift towards renewable energy means that electricians worldwide are already in high demand, from California to Germany,” he said.

“The federal government’s neglect of training over the past decade and a half is a massive obstacle to the transition away from fossil fuels.

“There’s an urgent need for a renewed focus on vocational training, expansion of TAFE, and making teaching careers in the industry more attractive.

“The silver lining is the incredible opportunity this presents. 

“Training the energy workforce not only addresses the current gap but promises fulfilling, lucrative careers to hundreds of thousands of Australians.

“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 Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, 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.

This article was publised on 3 October 2023.