|Energy Skills Australia staff (ESA) were in attendance to witness Treasurer Jim Chalmers deliver his second budget address to Parliament and the Australian people on Tuesday night.
CEO Mark Burgess said he was “pleased with the governments focus on the transitioning to a clean energy economy and the upskilling of existing workers with a focus on women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
“The confirmation of the establishment of the NET Zero Authority has been met with broad support from industry stakeholders. The $83.2million agency will assist an orderly and positive economic transition associated with decarbonisation of energy generation. Additionally, the $20 billion investment in Rewiring the Nation will ensure the transmission network is modernised and infrastructure in place to meet renewable energy generation.”
Earlier this year the Government had commissioned Jobs and Skills Australia to undertake a Clean Energy Capacity Study to evaluate workforce needs and enable Australia to strategically plan for the skills needed for the transition to a clean energy economy. We look forward to viewing the final report in mid 2023.
Other winners out of Tuesdays budget were homeowners and Small and Medium Enterprise looking to improve their energy efficiency and save energy with $1.3 billion in funding going towards the Household Energy Upgrades Fund, and Small Business Energy Incentives with the maximum bonus deduction being $20,000. Both programs will be able to commission upgrades like double glazing, investing in more efficient appliance like heating and cooling and in some cases adding solar and batterie systems. Master Electricians Australia is supportive of the program however is advocating for further expansion to include emerging technologies such as bidirectional electric vehicles which can be used to power homes in times of peak energy use. Further praise came from Rewiring Australia co-founder Saul Griffith who has dubbed it “Australia’s first electrification budget”.
Tuesday’s Budget showed that there was no new money for TAFEs or the vocational education and training sector however it is clear that there is a more collegiate approach between State, Territory, and the Commonwealth Government as they progress negotiations on the 5-year, $3.7 billion National Skills Agreement.
CEO Mark Burgess welcomed the $2 billion investment for the new Hydrogen Headstart Program but felt there was a missed opportunity for capital investment in renewable training. “Australia has the potential on being a world leader when it comes to investing in renewable energy, we need to ensure we have adequate world class training facilities to ensure we have the skilled workforce to meet our NET Zero objective.” said Mark Burgess.
Women in the electrotechnology sector is on a slow increase with the recent statistics from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) showing women now make up 5% of currently employed apprentice electricians. This may not sound like much, and it is not however it is a steady increase compared to 5 or 6 years ago when there was only 2%.
Upskilling workers and inspiring women to pick up the tools in male-dominated industries are central to the Government’s plan to fill widespread labour shortages.
To help get more women in trade-based roles, gender targets will be linked to flagship construction projects by the Federal Government, that cost more than $10m. The target aims to double the proportion of women in apprenticeships and traineeship on all projects by 2030.
National Co-Convenor of WAVE Kit McMahon said in their Gender Equality Finally Takes Centre Stage In Skills & Training Budget recap “We welcome the Government’s recognition to redress inequity in our apprenticeship system through a set of – what we see – as interconnected initiatives,” said Kit. “The deliberate and targeted support and guidance for women apprentices, together with the national standards for employers of apprentices and the Australian Skills Guarantee on major construction projects which sets targets for the employment of women on tools and in the industry more broadly, can be brought together to really transform our system.”
Earlier this month, the Government provide additional funding of $54.3 million over 5 years from 2022–23 to introduce a new non-financial support model for Australian Apprenticeships from 1 July 2024. The model will redesign, refocus and provide organisations with appropriate expertise in supporting women in historically male dominated trade apprenticeships. This will include providing education, advice, or support to increase culturally safe and inclusive workplaces, reduce the cultural barriers to women’s participation, address workplace challenges and support businesses to attract and retain women.
While ESA commends this budget for skills and training and supporting women and first nations people, we know that its success will only be as good as its implementation, and we are keen to work with Government to ensure we have the highly skilled clean economy workforce needed for the future.