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Australian government makes clean energy a major focus in new national skills plan

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By Colin Hay - 
Australian government National Skills Agreement NSA clean energy

A new nationwide upskilling program, valued at $30 billion, has zeroed in on clean energy as a leading priority under a five-year National Skills Agreement (NSA).

The NSA, led by the federal government and with potential contributions from state and territory administrations, is scheduled to commence in January next year.

According to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, the agreement has been designed to embed national cooperation and strategic investment in Australia’s vocational education and training sector.

The government has pledged an initial investment of $12.6 billion to expand and transform access to the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, support quality training and implement reforms to address critical skills needs.

If States and Territories access all the Commonwealth funding available under the NSA, the combined investment by governments would exceed $30 billion.

In their announcement of the new agreement, both the Federal and WA governments highlighted clean energy and the net-zero transformation of the economy as top priorities that the new program will emphasise.

2 million new workers needed

A study commissioned by the Australian government recently estimated that the nation will require around 2 million new workers in building and engineering trades by 2050 to achieve the nation’s energy transition.

Before that milestone, Australia will likely need an additional 32,000 electricians in the next seven years.

The in-depth study confirmed that Australia can be a renewable energy superpower, but it will require significant effort.

Preliminary modelling in that study suggested that under the central scenario Australia will need to increase the number of workers in building and engineering trades by around 40%.

According to the report, occupations with the highest growth rates (2023-2030) include telecommunications trades workers, electronics trades workers, electrical engineering draftspersons and technicians, structural steel construction workers, construction managers, plumbers and electricians.

The study concluded that workforce change means more than just the number of jobs that will be created or lost – with re-skilling of a large section of the current workforce a major requirement.

Major reforms

Under the NSA, major reforms will include the establishment of nationally networked TAFE Centres of Excellence involving partnerships between TAFEs, universities, Jobs and Skills Councils and industry.

“We need to train Australians for the jobs of today as well as the jobs of tomorrow,” PM Albanese stated.

WA Premier Roger Cook said the new agreement will help deliver on Australia’s clean energy transition.

“It comes at an important time, as the WA Government convenes an Energy Transition Summit in November 2023 to leverage the unique job opportunities in the global push to decarbonise the economy,” he added.