If you are looking for a career or are considering retraining, there is at least one industry that will have a ton of work.
You’ve probably heard of them as “green” or “clean” jobs.
Recent studies have estimated that more than half a million jobs will be created through what is called the “clean energy transition”.
This is a generic phrase that includes everything from driving green ammonia trucks and installing electric vehicle chargers, to cutting the grass under solar panels and climbing wind turbines.
The demand for skilled workers will be “unprecedented”, experts say.
So, if you are planning your future, this could be a good place to start. But before we rush out to buy a ride-on mower, let’s take a closer look at which jobs will be in demand the most.
How do you train for these jobs? And where could you end up with your base?
How many do you work exactly?
Alison Aberley, a fourth-year apprentice in North West Sydney, chose to become an electrician in part because she felt the switch to clean energy would mean a lot of work.
“I got interested in renewable energy because this is the future of commerce,” she said.
“Everyone knows everything is going down that way.”
It turns out that Alison is right. Over the past two years, a number of reports have predicted huge demand for workers in the clean energy sector.
At the higher end of the spectrum is the Beyond Zero Emissions 2020 projection that Australia can create 1.8 million jobs in five years investing in a “low carbon economy”.
Next, there is the Net Zero Australia project estimate up to 1.3 million workers it would be necessary by mid-century for Australia to achieve net zero emissions and become a major exporter of renewable energy.
Then there’s the RepuTex modeling that underpins the federal government’s Powering Australia Plan: 604,000 “direct and indirect” jobs created by 2030.
Finally, there is the Electric Trades Union’s (ETU) report. 450,000 jobs it could be created in the coming decades as part of a national renewable energy plan.
So, there is a number of figures (more on that later), but the main point is that there will be a lot of jobs.
The ETU, which has the lowest estimate, says the level of demand for workers in the clean energy sector will be off the charts.
“It is unprecedented,” said Michael Wright, acting secretary of the ETU.
“There will be inconceivable levels of demand for skilled labor.”
What are green jobs?
To answer this, we need to go into some detail about how the above estimates were made.
One reason for the range of data on jobs is the different definitions of what green work is: they all agree that the jobs created by installing renewable energy, for example, are green jobs, but some also include planting trees. or recycle.
Then there is also disagreement about what exactly counts as a “job”. The CEC and the NZA, for example, use the metrics of a full-time job lasting one year.
Some other reports may count short-term jobs that last only a few months as a single job, said Anita Talberg, director of workforce development at the Clean Energy Council.
And some estimates, like that of RepuTex, both counted directly And indirect works.
“You want to make sure you compare apples to apples,” he said.
Finally, each report made different assumptions about how emissions will be reduced, said Michael Wright of the ETU.
“The projections boil down to questions like: ‘Will Melbourne stay with gas to cook at home?'”
“And where that answer lies is a question of thousands of electrical jobs that should be created.”
So it’s a confusing area. There are differing opinions on what counts as a green job and a range of estimates for how many will be created.
But fortunately, there is consensus on which occupations will be most in demand.
Which jobs will be most in demand?
Electricians and engineers.
If you want to start a career in clean energy, training for one of these two occupations would be a good start.
CEC’s Skilling the Energy Transition report, released last week, contains more details (page 10) on the types of roles we’re talking about, from grid connection engineers to battery installation specialists.
According to the CEC’s Clean Energy Careers Guide, civil, electrical, power systems and grid connection engineers are highly sought after.
A survey of clean energy employers conducted last year found that more than 50% of employment in the renewable energy sector is in engineering roles, including electrical and mechanical professions.
Michael Wright of the ETU said around 10,000-14,000 electrical workers are trained each year.
“We need another 80,000-100,000 of these workers over the next decade, above what we currently have,” he said.
“For a young man passionate about tackling climate change, if he wants to have a job that takes us to net zero, be an electrician.
“The people who will actually get us to net zero are the electricians.
“Electric workers are climate jobs.”
But there were other jobs as well, said Michael Brear, director of the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne.
“Its technicians and craftsmen, professionals, executives, administrative employees, machinery operators and drivers,” said Professor Brear, who contributed to the research partnership of the Net Zero Australia project.
“The remarkable thing that struck us when we did this analysis was how many different types of jobs there are already and there will be in the industry.
“The ten most popular jobs are about one third of all jobs in the industry.”
What do they pay?
It depends on the type of job you are looking for.
Under the industry award, a non-adult first-year electrician apprentice starts at $ 576.17 per week, which increases to $ 848.74 by the fourth and final year, plus overtime and allowance.
Full-time “electrical services” workers are well paid, with an average total weekly cash earnings of over $ 2,000, which is the highest figure behind the mining industry for non-executive employees, ABS data show.
A 2019 survey found that the average annual salary in Australasia for renewable energy workers with six years of experience was $ 101,591 ($ 148,139).
How do I train for them?
Again, it depends on the job.
But the good news is you don’t have to go to college if you don’t want to.
Engineering jobs require an engineering degree, but others can be trained through the vocational education system.
To be a small-scale battery and solar installer, for example, you need at least a Certificate III in Electrical Engineer, which takes about four years through TAFE.
Again, the Clean Energy Careers Guide contains more information on these different pathways, including what to do if you want to move from one sector to another.
A huge amount of training will be needed to meet the demand for skilled workers, Professor Brear said.
The Net Zero Australia project estimated there were 140,000 people working in the energy sector across the country.
“We are talking about a factor ten of growth in the number of people working in the sector by the middle of the century,” he said.
“That’s ten times the number of electricians, ten times the number of engineers, ten times the number of project managers and finance people and lawyers and workers and all that.
Are these works in progress?
Many of the jobs associated with renewable energy are under construction, meaning many won’t last more than two years, said Dr Talberg.
“A solar or wind park needs several hundred people to build it. A solar park takes about a year and a wind park takes about a year and a half.
“Once installed and undergoing maintenance, a solar park only needs a few people. In a wind farm it’s a minimum of 7-9.”
So the jobs will be relatively short-term, but there will be a lot of them.
The graph below shows all industrial-scale (i.e. very large) clean energy projects for which at least an application has been made till now.
The renewable energy sector is estimated to employ around 30,000. If all these projects go ahead, they will create another 50,000 jobs, according to the CEC.
This is just the beginning. There will also be all the jobs created by even larger renewable energy projects that have not yet been requested, but which are expected to be realized within the next few decades.
Where will these works be based?
Everywhere, but according to some scenarios, a disproportionate number will be in Northern Australia.
If Australia becomes a major exporter of renewable energy, the northern parts of WA, Queensland and NT could be transformed by five or six “Tasmanian-sized” solar panels and massive hydrogen hubs, according to the Net Zero Australia project.
These massive systems will require an army of workers – according to the model, nearly a fifth of WA’s workforce will work in the energy sector by 2060, up from 1.7% in 2020.
In the NT, demand would be even higher, with the energy sector accounting for 165.1 percent of the projected workforce.
As Professor Brear pointed out, there were more people than were expected to be in the territory by the middle of the century.
“This exposes the limitations of our modeling,” he said.
“Many of these jobs could be created in the southern states and particularly in South Australia when other factors come into play.
Even if most of the jobs were in the north of Australia, there would still be a lot of them in the south, he added.
“There are nearly four times the number of energy jobs in Victoria in the middle of the century than today.”
“While there will be plenty of jobs in regional Australia and remote Australia, there will be plenty of jobs in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and Adelaide, Hobart and Perth.
“They will need a lot of wind turbines, solar, electric vehicles, poles and cables and everything else they need.”
For Alison, the electrician’s apprentice in North West Sydney, these predictions are music to her ears.
There will always be work for an electrician somewhere, “he said.
“So it’s a comfort once I get my certificates.”
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