March 14, 2023 Opinion Piece
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Importance of Quality Skilled Migration

Position Paper – March 2023


There is no doubt skilled migration has played and will continue to play a crucial role in meeting the skills needs of the nation particularly as we move towards clean energy transition and electrifying the nation.


Unlike other sectors and occupations, the Australian electrotechnology industry, specifically Electricians and Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning mechanics has a well-established, fit for purpose skilled migration process and pathway for Offshore Technical Skills Record (OTSR) holders. Developed by Energy Skills Australia, Trades Recognition Australia (TRA), industry and regulators dating back to 2006.

Whilst the knowledge and skills of many overseas trained workers can be very high, there are differences in the way technical expertise needs to be applied in Australia. The difference represents the Australian context ‘gap’. Electrical regulators are especially concerned that the ‘gap’ be addressed in regulated trade vocations such as electrical and refrigeration and air-conditioning, where the work context may differ markedly in overseas countries and could endanger lives or have a detrimental impact on electricity infrastructure or systems.

Differences between Australian and overseas occupational practices arise because of the use of different standards, regulations and/or industry codes/guidelines in the worker’s place of origin. For instance, in Australia and New Zealand, there are standards and practices that are not seen or applied in any other country, with other practices seen in a small number of countries.
‘This ‘gap’ which must be met to ensure the operative meets both the qualification and occupational licence requirements.


TRA approved Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), assess the trade skills of people intending to migrate to Australia or already in Australia who hold overseas qualifications wishing to work in Australia on a temporary or permanent basis.

The assessment process is very rigorous and involves a self-assessment, documentary evidence and technical skills assessment against the technical aspects of the units in Certificate III qualification. If successful candidates are issued an OTSR.

Nationally accredited gap training courses to address and cover this gap in skills, knowledge and work performance (application) from overseas trained electrotechnology operatives have been available since 2008 for both electrician and refrigeration and air conditioning occupations.

Except for New Zealand trained electricians and refrigeration operatives, who are covered under Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition (TTMR), this knowledge and skills gap must be met and applied in Australia (through supervision). To achieve this, Electrical and Refrigeration occupational regulators offer restricted/provisional and/or training licences to OTSR holders so that they can legally work in Australia to gain the on-the-job component of the units of competency in the gap training course.
Regulators have determined the on-the-job component should be 12 months nominal duration in Australia.

Gap Training RTOs are restricted to providers who have gone through an Expression of Interest (EOI) process and are licensed by Energy Skills Australia.
The Gap Training process is summaries below:


Industry is observing an alarming and growing number of RTOs offering alternate, largely RPL, options for skilled migrants including OTSR holders.

Ultimately bypassing the quality industry and TRA endorsed and accepted pathway and process.
We acknowledge that RTOs have authority to offer RPL to their clients, however in heavily regulated and high-risk occupations where competency requires both on and off the job components in Australia, it is near impossible for RTOs to legitimately offer RPL to overseas trained workers or workers who have not undertaken an apprenticeship in Australia without recognising illegal work.

There is simply no other way to achieve the on-the-job requirements of the units of competence than working under supervision in Australia.
RTOs who are bypassing the industry and TRA endorsed pathway are potentially misleading candidates and doing so at high cost with no guarantee they will be issued an occupational licence at the end and therefore not able to operate in the industry.

RTOs who offer RPL and/or an alternate pathway to skilled migrants do so at their own risk, should there be an accident or incident the training records will be one of the first things to be interrogated.

Expression of Interest

Energy Skills Australia welcomes RTOs who are interested in delivering the nationally accredited gap training course to complete an EOI. This program is industry approved and TRA endorsed and delivers quality outcomes to the candidate, RTO and industry.
Please visit our website for more information and to find the EOI application: 

September 9, 2022 Opinion Piece
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Powering Australia in an Industry Cluster

By Mark Burgess, Executive Officer Energy Skills Australia

Australia’s current energy crisis is the final nail in the coffin for coal-fired electricity. It is beyond clear renewable energy is the key to reliable electricity that will create jobs and cut power bills.

The Albanese government knows this and it is why it brought its ambitious plan for Powering Australia to the election. The government has answered the cries from industry for stability and policy that will encourage further investment into emerging technologies and renewable energy.

Labor has rightly set a new target for emissions reduction of 43 per cent by 2030 and to net zero by 2050, making Australia less of a pariah on the international stage. It has also promised a $20 billion investment into the electricity grid which will be needed to connect Renewable Energy Zones (REZs) in regional areas to towns and our major cities.

The Albanese government’s plan also includes important funding for community battery projects, to store renewable electricity when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, and the development of the country’s first National Electric Vehicle and Battery Strategies. Equally as important is the pledge to finance 10,000 new energy apprenticeships and the revitalisation of Australian manufacturing.

However, the government now needs to turn its attention to maximising the benefits of these policies.

The best place to start is in Vocational Education and Training (VET). The importance of the new framework for workforce planning, setting of occupational standards and skills acquisition cannot be understated.

As the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) evaluates applications into the competitive tender process for the proposed Industry Cluster model, it is important to note there is both an opportunity to innovate, building on the aspects of the system that are working well; as well as recognising there are flaws within the proposed design.

The major concern the energy and renewables industry have is with the proposed cluster structure itself. The fracturing of the energy related training packages, particularly electrotechnology across different cluster groupings, completely undermines the Powering Australia policy and the transition to a green economy.

As investment grows and technologies evolve, workers will increasingly require transportable skills. Basing clusters on industries, rather than occupations, will provide significant workforce mobility challenges, which may not be overcome.

We’re already seeing a shortage of skilled trades workers including electricians.

This doesn’t mean we have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to apprenticeships but we must invest further in skills training, leading to employment, to drive economic growth in the green economy. A solid foundation of theoretical off-the-job skills underpinning practical on-the-job experience is what is needed, particularly in inherently dangerous occupations such as those linked to licensed electrical trades.

Our industry must also position itself to capture technological advancements better. This could be achieved through post-trade higher level qualifications, skill sets or dare I say it, industry endorsed specialisations such as micro-credentials. For the energy sector, the emphasis must be placed on the term post-trade, that is, after workers have acquired their initial broad transportable qualification. This will almost certainly help address issues of speed to market – which will continue to be on the agenda until it is resolved.

Most importantly, for skills acquisition to be successful we need to return to a truly industry-led bipartite VET system, industry – employer and employee representatives working together in unison, as they have in the past.

Workers need to feel included and valued, knowing they are making a significant contribution too and sharing in Australia’s prosperity. Employers need to advise and invest into the skills system, giving them the confidence that it is producing workers with the skills they need for them to be successful.

For the Powering Australia plan to accomplish its objective, the industry cluster model must have the needs of industry at its heart. To foster collaboration across the electrotechnology, renewables and energy supply industries, they must be contained together in one model.

Opportunities for aspiring young people or for existing workers to take on new roles within the energy sectors must be provided. The ability to address changing workforce challenges must be led by industry.

The opportunity awaits and industry has shown it is up for the challenge.