ETU sounds alarm over severe skills shortfall

Electrical Trades Union (ETU)

Wednesday, 04 October, 2023

ETU sounds alarm over severe skills shortfall

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has warned that Australia’s energy transition is doomed without aggressive action from the federal government to recruit more apprentices, as a major new report from Jobs and Skills Australia details the immense scale of the challenge.

The ETU has pointed to a severe skills shortfall that poses a significant 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.

As an example, the Rewiring the Nation initiative requires 10,000 kilometres of transmission lines to be built. There are only 32 apprentice transmission lines workers in training.

Based on current completion rates, Australia needs an extra 20,000 electrical apprentices each year for the next three years, which represents a 240% increase.

In contrast to other sectors, the electrical skills shortage cannot be solved through migration, according to ETU National Secretary Michael Wright.

“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.”

But there is a silver lining, Wright said, in the “incredible opportunity” this presented.

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

“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.

Image credit: iStock.com/Thurtell

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