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Connecting in Canberra; the API is flying the flag for the power engineering workforce

Some reflections by API CEO Dr David Pointing on the shift in energy and activity in the power sector community and recent experiences in connecting with stakeholders in Canberra.



Having been in the CEO role of the API for just short of 3 years, I feel like I've seen more change than would be usual in such a short period of time.


Of course, we've all seen huge changes due to COVID but I'm referring more to the change in awareness, interest and even concern about the workforce aspects associated with the transformation of Australia's electricity system.


Having been looking at energy workforce matters for the past almost 20 years, and in detail for the past 5-7 years, I can see a shift from 'it is all in hand and/or we'll be able to adapt as we need to" to more of a "what is going on, where are we going to get the people we need (from new grads to experienced hands)".


At an organisational level, I'm seeking organisations stepping up their game in workforce planning (but there are still lots of changes to be made in my view, but more on that later).


I'm also seeing a huge increase in interest from government and other associations and bodies on the development of the workforce for the power sector, at all experience levels, occupational categories, and with a refreshingly positive approach to diversity and equity too.


So for the API and me personally, the times are exciting, but also a bit daunting .... suddenly there is a lot going on and all roads have been leading to Canberra of late.


For me for the past year this has meant connecting with government teams based in Canberra via the 'good ol teams/zoom' for meetings on the Australian Energy and Employment Report and associated activities, and for the Powerful Women Leadership Program (funded by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet).



More recently I've been flying to Canberra to participate in the Climate & Energy Mini Jobs Summit at Parliament House in September.


It was an honour to represent the API’s members in the forum with the Minister and Deputy Minister for Climate and Energy, Chris Bowen and Jenny McAllister.


I’ve not been to Canberra for a few years, or been in such an active forum with so many Australian parliamentarians and stakeholders - the optimism for the future was palpable, despite the daunting challenges.


I connected with the Ministers and their teams to share our activities in supporting the specialized technical workforce for the power sector and in building a diverse and capable community of skilled professionals, including our Bursary Scholarships, Summer School, and Powerful Women Leadership Program.


Fantastic to also meet in person with colleagues that we’ve been working with over the past few years including Kane Thornton and Anita Talberg at the Clean Energy Council, Luke Menzel at the Energy Efficiency Council, and Lynne Gallagher at Energy Consumers Australia


I also supported Luke's efforts to raise awareness of our work with the RACE for 2030 CRC in developing the research roadmap for workforce development, which led to the Australian Government's Australian Energy & Employment Report project as a pilot - but we believe the team will need more resources to achieve the outcome and data we all need. (AEER project details: https://lnkd.in/eZ7kcDy4 )


I've since been back to Canberra to meet with representatives from the Office for Women (about the PWLP project and our progress) and with staff from Chris Bowen's office, and to attend an ACED dinner hosted by Bess Clark and the Marinus Link team on the referendum on the Indigenous voice to Parliament.


One aspect I've notice from many discussions is a strong interest in the development of the trade workforce for the power sector (who will have an essential role) but less understanding and interest in the specialised technical power engineering related workforce.


So I suspect I'll be back in Canberra again soon .....

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