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ESI Transmission Distribution and Rail


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

The ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail sector in Australia refers to infrastructure networks that transport high-voltage electricity from generators to distribution networks, and then directly to domestic and industrial users. The transmission sub-sector includes power lines and substations employing more than 4,500 people and generates revenue of $3.3 billion per annum. The distribution sub-sector is significantly larger generating $17.9 billion annually in revenue and employing nearly 34,000 people.

Vocational education and training is required for occupations involved in:

  • transmission structure and line assembly
  • transmission overhead (erection of towers, poles, structures and associated hardware)
  • distribution cable jointing.

Nationally recognised training for ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail is delivered under the UET – ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail Training Package. For more information on ESI Generation, Gas and Water  sectors, please visit the respective pages.

Information sourced from the ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail Industry Reference Committee Skills Forecast 2017.

IRC and skills forecasts

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

The employment level in the Electricity Distribution industry sector has fluctuated significantly during the last 17 years with a slight decline overall.  The employment level in 2022 is projected to be at a similar level to the year 2017.

The employment level in the Electricity Transmission industry sector declined sharply between 2006 and 2009 and has fluctuated since then. The employment level in 2017 was approximately 1,900 and is projected to remain at a similar level through to 2022. A new version of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification came out in 2006, which may affect the employment level time series.

Electrical Distribution Trades Workers are the largest VET-related occupation, making up 14% of the total Electricity Transmission and Distribution industry sector workforces. However, the number of Electrical Distribution Trade Workers is projected to decrease by 2022.

Electricians also make up a significant proportion of the Electricity Transmission and Distribution industry sector workforces (11%), and this occupation is expected to see an increase in employment levels over the coming years.

Training trends

Training snapshot

There were approximately 6,000 program enrolments during 2016 and over 2,000 completions. Program enrolments decreased between 2014 and 2016; however, there was an increase in completions over the same period. The number of subject-only enrolments (no program) increased considerably between 2014 and 2016 from approximately 56,000 to more than 100,000.

Students enrolled in the Certificate III in ESI Power Systems Distribution Overhead qualification were training towards the intended occupation of Electrical Distribution Trades Worker. For the Diploma of ESI Power Systems, students were training towards the intended occupation of Electrical Engineers.

The majority of training is carried out through either TAFE or private training providers.  For TAFE enrolments nearly 50% were funded by international fee-for-service with most of the rest being funded by domestic fee-for-service.

Thirty percent of students who enrolled during 2016 resided overseas. The majority of students who lived in Australia were from the eastern states.

Apprentice and trainee commencements increased in the decade between 2000 and 2009; however, there has been a sharp decrease since 2012 and by 2016 commencements dropped to a 15 year low of 178. Completion levels have remained fairly stable over the last few years and there were 546 completions during 2016, however this may decrease over the coming years due to the decrease in commencements. The majority of apprentices were training towards the occupation of Electrical Distribution Trades Worker.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry.

For more data specific to your region, visit NCVER’s Atlas of total VET. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

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Industry insights

Infographic title: Priority skills: 2017 skills forecast,, Infographic data,, Title: Top priority skills,, adaptability, information  and communication technology, organisation / planning, professionalism, renewable,, Title: Top generic skills,, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, (stem),, technology, learning agility / information literacy / intellectual autonomy and self-management, design mindset / thinking critically / system thinking / solving problems, language literacy and numeracy, (LLN), Infographic title: Skills and occupations in demand: job vacancies,, Title: Top 5 occupations,, electrical distribution trades workers, metal fitters and machinists, building and engineering technicians (not specified), architectural building and surveying technicians, electricians,, Title: Top 5 employers,, Queensland Department of Energy and Water Supply, Origin Energy, Transgrid, AGL Energy, S A Power Networks,, Title: Top 5 locations,, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Infographic source, Priority skills source: ESI Transmission Distribution and Rail Industry Reference Committee Skills Forecast 2017, Job vacancy occupations in demand source: Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight ,Real Time Labor Market Information tool

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail IRC Skills Forecast the top priority skills required for the ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail sector are:

  • adaptability
  • information and communication technology
  • organisational/planning
  • professionalism
  • renewables.

According to the job vacancy data, the top advertised VET-related occupation (Technicians and Trades Workers and Machinery Operators and Drivers) in the Electricity Supply industry is Electrical Distribution Trades Workers, and the top advertised location for VET-related occupations is Queensland.

The ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail IRC Skills Forecast highlights a pressing need to ensure the ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail workforce is properly resourced and skilled to meet the demands of new technologies. The top generic skills listed in order of priority are:

  • science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM)
  • technology
  • learning agility/information literacy/intellectual autonomy and self-management
  • design mindset/thinking critically/system thinking/solving problems
  • language, literacy and numeracy (LLN).

When reviewing key industry reports, a recurring theme is the emergence of new technologies. For example, a recommendation from the FutureGrid research report is to equip more electrical engineers and researchers with high level skills across multiple disciplines (e.g. STEM, digital literacy) in power system planning and operation. As after a long period of stability, the power industry is facing a period of rapid and disruptive technological change.

The Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap forecasts that the continuous adoption of emerging technologies between now and 2027 will require ongoing skill development for the electricity transmission and distribution workforces. An example is increased digital literacy to accommodate the integration of new technologies.

A discussion paper on the future skilling implications of the smart grid suggests transitioning to a smarter grid will have the largest impact on the distribution network operator workforce and electrical contractors. New roles not previously part of the distribution network operator workforce may be required, particularly in the areas of Engineering, ICT and Data Analytics.

Furthermore, according to the Environmental scan 2015 by E-Oz Energy Skills Australia the internet of things will provide myriad opportunities to use electricity efficiently and cheaply through better design, data-processing technology and changes in behaviour. Skills that need to be addressed include the installation, calibration, interconnection and synchronisation of intelligent appliances along with the ability to communicate with both internal and external customers on the deployment of these technologies.

In summary, the way electricity is stored and distributed is undergoing a period of technological change. Industry reports along with the ESI Distribution, Transmission and Rail IRC Skills Forecast, has identified this shift in technology as the key challenge in skill development for the workforce.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment, 2017, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal.

  • employment projections to May 2022, by ANZSIC 3 digit industry:
    • 262 Electricity Transmission
    • 263 Electricity Distribution
    • 260 Electricity Supply, nfd.
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations , employment projections to May 2022:
    • 3422 Electrical Distribution Trades Workers
    • 3411 Electricians
    • 2333 Electrical Engineers
    • 3123 Electrical Engineering Draftspersons and Technicians.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), sex, state and territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 – EQ06, viewed 1 September 2017 <>.

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2000 to 2017, May Quarter
    • 262 Electricity Transmission
    • 263 Electricity Distribution
    • 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:
    • 262 Electricity Transmission
    • 263 Electricity Distribution
    • 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:

  • UET – ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail Training Package.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

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

  • 2014, 2015, 2016 program enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016 subject enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016 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.

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

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%.

UET – ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2016 commencements
  • 2010 to 2016 completions 
  • 2016 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2016 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail Industry Reference Committee Skills Forecast 2017.

Burning Glass Technologies: Labour insight – real-time labour market information tool <> 2017.

  • Job advertisements from all of Australia from January 2014 to August 2017 are included in the analysis. Data shown is the top five advertised VET-related occupations (1–6 digit level Technicians and Trades Workers, Labourers and Machinery Operators and Drivers) in the ANZSIC 2 digit 06 Electricity Supply industry and the top five locations and employers according to job advertisements.
Updated: 11 Oct 2018
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