• David Pointing

API supports power engineering academics in developing the workforce and knowledge for our future

Reflections for API CEO Dr David Pointing after attending the AUPEC power engineering academic conference in Adelaide in October 2022; the API was the Platinum sponsor for hte conference.

“Our power engineering academic community has an essential role in Australia achieving our net zero goals as they are such important contributors and leaders in developing the workforce and the knowledge that industry needs to progress the transition underway in our energy systems” says David Pointing PhD EngExec CPEng FIEAust MAICD, API CEO, in speaking at the Australasian Power Engineering Academics Conference in Adelaide in early October 2022.

The API is a committed long-term supporter of the annual AUPEC conferences and David had a very productive few days connecting with our educators and researchers, and connecting with staff from some of the API’s member organisations.

It has given us a lot of food for thought too on how the API can enhance our role in supporting the academic community in developing the workforce for the future.

Some key takeaways from the conference for the API included:

1. The financial challenges for many universities (due to COVID, international student numbers, budgets etc) are constraining the number of power engineering academics who can/will attend conferences, with numbers down at the AUPEC conference on previous years.

2. This limited participation in industry conferences applies to academic conferences and to an even greater extend to industry-oriented conferences (ENA, CIGRE, EESA etc); hence we continue to believe it is important that the API supports opportunities for academics to connect with each other and with industry representatives through conferences like AUPEC (we are a regular sponsor) and through innovation projects (such as the ASTP Innovation projects we support with ENA). We're also looking at other opportunities to support sharing of knowledge and connections betwen industry and academics.

3. Given the rapid rate of changes happening within the operations, markets and policies of the Australian power sector, the situation of limited connections between academics and industry through events such as industry conferences gives us some concern in terms of how undergraduate teaching can remain up-to-date with operational changes (and what is needed or expected of graduates as they enter the sector).

4. Encouragingly we did join conversations at the conference around how the 'fundamentals' of power engineering can and must be taught but could be done so with more integration of contemporary practices and examples based on renewable energy technologies etc. We see some opportunities for the API to take practical action here to support the inclusion of contemporary industry issues and practices into undergrad teaching.

5. Another area of concern for the API is the very limited gender diversity within the academic component of the power engineering community; the panel session on women in power engineering had 80% of the women in the room sitting on the panel (4 out of 5 women in the room!). This has again given us food for thought on practical actions the API can take.

6. PhD candidates are in need of career guidance for pathways into research and/or into industry, and it is in the interests of industry that we succeed as PhD graduates can bring a lot of value to industry as we enter a period of profound change (given the expertise PhDs have in integrating new knowledge and managing uncertainty). I'm also wondering if PhD graduates may be an under-considered and utilised source of talent in our talent shortage in industry. Again we see the API have a role to play here, and we fortunately have a number of existing programs and resources that we could adapt to support PhDs in developing their career pathways.

The next AUPEC conference will be in Ballarat in September 2023 - we look forward to being there, and will be encouraging industry representatives and academics to attend and strengthen the connection between the practitioners and the talented community of academics who have such an important role in developing new knowledge and developing the next generation of power engineering professionals.

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