If we want to make the most of the opportunities of a new energy economy for the Australian people – then we have to make sure Australians, especially our kids, have the opportunity to train for the jobs of the future.
We have youth unemployment of around 12 per cent, but three in four solar firms have difficulty recruiting electricians because they can’t find workers with specific experience in renewables.
The renewables sector is just one new energy industry of a changing global economy. It employs over 25,000 people locally and the pipeline of current projects for right now could secure nearly 29,000 new full-time equivalent jobs.
These are jobs for the regions and the outer suburbs.
That’s why Labor will invest $100 million to support 10,000 New Energy Apprenticeships - it will incentivise apprentices to train in the new energy jobs of the future.
We will provide $10,000 over the life of the apprenticeship to those who train in new energy industries, so we can start building the Australian workforce to take advantage of the jobs of the future.
We’ll also invest $10 million in a New Energy Skills Program to tailor skills training to the specific needs of new energy industries and ensure its fit-for-purpose.
I’m talking about apprenticeships in energy generation, storage and distribution – the wind farms and the household solar and batteries we all know well.
We know the demand is there. We’ve just hit 2.7 million, or one in every four Australian households with rooftop solar. That’s up from 118 households in 2001 and growing fast.
But the apprenticeships in new energy industries go beyond just renewables alone.
It’s apprenticeships for sparkies, mechanics, construction workers, fitters and more - because the opportunities new energy presents are economy wide.
As companies and households seek to cut their emissions and their power bills – it means energy efficiency across new commercial and residential buildings – and retro-fitting the old.
It’s apprenticeships in the design, manufacture and installation of new building products and our heating and cooling systems.
It’s apprenticeships to support the development of labour-intensive, value-added manufacturing in this country.
Yes, it’s true that the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.
Absolutely that’s correct.
But this global challenge is Australia’s opportunity.
We’ve worked out how to get water from a tap when we need it, despite the fact it’s not always raining.
The answer? Storage and transportation – and it’s the same for renewable energy.
Australia produces nine of the 10 critical minerals for the batteries the world needs to store energy from renewable sources and to drive electric vehicles as all major auto-makers phase out their fuel models.
I want us to not only take lithium and other rare earths out of the ground – but also turn them into batteries and other new energy technologies that the changing global economy is hungry for.
And the transportation of this energy? It happens via transmission in our national electricity grid.
Our grid, from South Australia to Tasmania, to far North Queensland, is one of the longest in the world. It was built for the last century, before households adopted rooftop solar in droves and before companies looked to renewables to power their operations.
Labor understands this upgrade, which will unlock countless more major energy projects and allow households across the country to cut their bills, for the nation building project it is.
That’s why we’ve committed $20 billion to fund the Rewiring the Nation Corporation to partner with the private sector and build Australia’s modern electricity grid. This will create jobs.
It will unlock $40 billion worth of value for the economy, ensure we keep the lights on and cut power bills.
The world owes an Australian university, UNSW, for much of the technology behind solar cells, but only one fantastic Australian company, Tindo Solar, manufactures lovally.
They’re consistently ranked top of the market and they’re building a new manufacturing plant to keep up with demand.
But as an industry – it’s been an opportunity missed.
We can’t afford not to take these opportunities.
I want Australians to have the ability to be trained with the skills they need for these industries of the future.
We know where these jobs are going to be and we must act now to build up the skills base for these potentially huge export industries.
We are a lucky country – our natural resources have helped to build prosperity.
And they can and should continue to do so.
We are one of the sunniest and windiest countries on earth, and under our toes we’ve got the minerals that the world needs.
Our best asset, though, is our people.
Some of the smartest and hardest working people on this earth.
We need a government that invests in them to turn our luck into gold.
That’s exactly what a Labor government will do.