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ESI Generation

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) Generation sector, which is one component of the Utilities industry.

The ESI Generation sector in Australia has provided an estimated annual revenue of $18.62 billion, adding $6.2 billion to the Australian economy in 2018. The sector employs over 11,500 people in fossil fuel and renewable energy generation.

Although the demand for electricity is expected to increase over the next five years, public concern about the environment represents a significant challenge for the industry. This will continue to drive the development of reliable renewable energy, which will be a major focus into the future.

Vocational education and training is required for occupations involved in:

  • Plant operations support
  • Systems operations
  • Plant operations
  • Electrical and mechanical maintenance
  • Wind generation maintenance.

Nationally recognised training for ESI Generation occupations is delivered under the UEP – Electricity Supply Industry – Generation Sector Training Package

For more information on ESI Transmission, Distribution and RailGas and Water industry sectors, please visit the respective pages.

Information sourced from the  ESI Generation IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and skills forecasts

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

The 2019 employment level in the Electricity Generation industry sector is at a slightly higher level to the year 2000, having fluctuated over the years in between. The level is projected to decrease slightly until 2024 to 14,400. The employment level in the Electricity Supply industry peaked in 2013 with an increase in 2018 slowing a decline, then declining back to around 2017 levels (around 19,000) in 2019. The level is projected increase over the next five years until 2024 to about 21,000. A new version of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification came out in 2006, which may affect the employment level time series.

Chemical, Gas, Petroleum and Power Generation Plant Operator is one of the largest employing VET-related occupations in the Electricity Generation industry sector, making up just under 12% of the workforce. The employment level for this occupation is projected to remain at the same level until 2024. The employment levels for Electricians is expected to grow by 5%, and for Electrical Engineers is projected to increase by 3%.

Training trends

Training snapshot

There were close to 440 program enrolments during 2018 and 33 completions. Program enrolments have steadily increased since 2015. Completions increased in 2017, but in 2018 decreased to the level seen in 2016. The majority of training was at the certificate III & IV levels and the main qualification areas were Systems Operations and Support and Maintenance. The main intended occupation for the training was Power Generation Plant Operator. There were also more than 16,800 subject-only (no program) enrolments during 2018, a strong increase from the previous years.

Training in this sector was predominantly carried out by private training providers (92%), however qualifications in Maintenance were almost equally provided by TAFE institutes (48%) and private training providers (52%). Funding came exclusively from domestic fee-for-service.

Around 41% of students enrolled during 2018 were from Victoria and 21% were from Queensland.

Approximately two thirds of training was delivered in Victoria (64%), with a further 22% in Queensland.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The top priority skills for Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) Generation sector include health and safety, operational (plant and control systems) and coding/programming. The top priority industry and occupation skills include maintenance/servicing and electrical.

According to the job vacancy data, the top advertised VET-related occupations in the Electricity Supply industry are Other Building and Engineering Technicians and Electricians. Job vacancy data also suggests the top generic skills in demand are communication and planning.

The top generic skills listed in the ESI Generation IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast in order of importance to the industry are:

  • Technology
  • Design mindset / Thinking critically / System thinking / Solving problems
  • Science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM)
  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self-management
  • Language, literacy and numeracy (LLN).

The ESI Generation IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast highlights several challenges and opportunities within the sector:

  • Automation and digitalisation: Advancements in Artificial Intelligence, computer technology, automation, the Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data, customer-service platforms and social media offer a range of benefits such as improved customer service and operational efficiency. As the adoption of automated systems, data collection, and application of data analytics become more common, upskilling the current and future workforce will be essential to meet new skill demands.
  • Cyber security: The electricity grid has become more dependent on digitally connected information systems which require highly trained workers with the skills to protect not only consumers' personal information but also grid infrastructure. It is imperative to have a tailored cyber security training program not only to inform the workforce of the nature and examples of the ESI Generation industry cyberattacks, but also give them the skills and competencies to be able to resolve them.
  • Renewable energy and diversification of the network: With the adoption of renewable electricity generation, including sources from wind, solar, hydro, and bioenergy expected to grow, the workforce requires upskilling and retraining in production and maintenance, particularly in emerging renewable technologies. Particularly important to the industry is the oversight of renewables and first responders with skills for installation, maintenance, and operation of equipment.
  • Decarbonisation: New methods and technology to improve the efficiency of electricity generation are being investigated for conventional coal powered systems will require the workforce to be upskilled in new technologies and innovations that emerge. With the increasing affordability of renewables and the decreasing demand for coal-power generation there is an opportunity to retrain coal plant workers to enable them to transition into the renewable energy workforce.

Soft skills, nontechnical skills including teamwork, problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking and emotional intelligence, as well as lifelong learning are integral to having a resilient workforce ready to adapt to change.

When reviewing key industry reports (see Relevant research section below), a recurring theme in the ESI Generation sector is the emergence of new technologies. The Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market: Blueprint for the Future highlights significant implications for the ESI Generation sectors skilling needs as a result of emerging technologies and services. The speed of technological change could result in skill gaps in the sector if the current and future workforce is not adequately trained.

The way in which electricity is generated is undergoing a period of technological change. Industry reports (see Relevant research section below), and the ESI Generation IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, have identified this shift in technology and automation, along with an increased focus on renewable energy technologies, as key challenges in skill development for the workforce.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2018, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal.       

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit employment projections to May 2023
    • 261 Electricity Generation
    • 260 Electricity Supply, nfd.
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2023
    • 2992 Chemical & Gas & Petroleum and Power Generation Plant Operators
    • 3232 Metal Fitters and Machinists
    • 3411 Electricians
    • 2333 Electrical Engineers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), sex, state and territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 – EQ06, viewed 1 November 2018 http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202018?OpenDocument .

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit, 2000 to 2018, May Quarter
    • 261 Electricity Generation
    • 260 Electricity Supply, nfd.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by:
    • 261 Electricity Generation
    • 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET students and courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • UEP Electricity Supply Industry - Generation Sector Training Package
  • Maintenance
    • UEP40312 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance (Mechanical)
    • UEP40318 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance - Electrical Electronics
    • UEP40412 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance (Fabrication)
    • UEP40418 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance (Fabrication)
    • UEP40512 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance - Electrical Electronics
    • UEP40518 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance (Mechanical)
    • UEP50306 - Diploma of ESI Generation (Maintenance)
    • UEP50312 - Diploma of ESI Generation (Maintenance)
    • UEP50318 - Diploma of ESI Generation (Maintenance)
  • System Operations and Support
    • UEP20112 - Certificate II in ESI Generation - Operations Support
    • UEP20118 - Certificate II in ESI Generation - Operations Support
    • UEP30112 - Certificate III in ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP30118 - Certificate III in ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP30206 - Certificate III in ESI Generation (Operations)
    • UEP30212 - Certificate III in ESI Generation - Operations
    • UEP30218 - Certificate III in ESI Generation - Operations
    • UEP40112 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP40118 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP40206 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation (Operations)
    • UEP40212 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation - Operations
    • UEP40218 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation - Operations
    • UEP40612 - Certificate IV in Large Scale Wind Generation - Electrical
    • UEP40618 - Certificate IV in Large Scale Wind Generation - Electrical
    • UEP50118 - Diploma of ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP50206 - Diploma of ESI Generation (Operations)
    • UEP50212 - Diploma of ESI Generation (Operations)
    • UEP50218 - Diploma of ESI Generation - Operations.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 subject enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the ESI Generation IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2019, Labour Insight Real-time Labour Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2019, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2016 and June 2019 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
    • Machinery Operators and Drivers
    • Technicians and Trades Workers
    • 26 Electricity Supply.
    • 3129 Other Building and Engineering Technicians
    • 3411 Electricians
    • 3422 Electrical Distribution Trades Workers
    • 3999 Other Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers
    • 3232 Metal Fitters and Machinists
    • 26 Electricity Supply.
Updated: 22 Sep 2020
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