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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 almost 4,800 people and generated revenue of $3.03 billion in 2017. The distribution sub-sector is significantly larger generating $16.62 billion in revenue and employing more than 33,000 people in 2017.

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 generation occupations is delivered under the UET – ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail Training Package. For more information on ESI GenerationGas and Water sectors, please visit the respective pages.

Information sourced from the ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast.

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

IRC and skills forecasts

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

The employment level in the Electricity Distribution industry sector has fluctuated significantly during the last 18 years. The employment level in 2023 is projected to be at a similar or slightly lower levels to the year 2018.

The employment level in the Electricity Transmission industry sector declined sharply between 2006 and 2009 and has fluctuated since then. The employment level in 2018 was approximately 1,700 and is projected to decline further to 2023. Employment levels in the Electricity distribution sector grew overall since 2000 to 23,600 in 2018 and is projected to remain steady to 2023. Employment levels for Electricity supply increased since 2008 to 25,300 in 2018 and is projected to decline to 2023. 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 to 2023 by about 10%.

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.

Electrical Engineers will see a decline in employment levels to 2023, by about 3%.

Training trends

Training snapshot

There were over 6,000 program enrolments during 2017 and approximately 1,300 completions. Program enrolments decreased between 2014 and 2016, but picked up slightly in 2017. There was an increase in completions between 2014 and 2016, but they fell again in 2017. The number of subject-only (no program) enrolments increased considerably between 2014 and 2017 from approximately 55,000 to more than 120,000.

Enrolments in 2017 were at certificate II, III and diploma or higher levels. Students enrolled in the Power Systems qualification, which had more than half of all enrolments in this sector, were training towards the intended occupations of Electrical Engineer and Electrical Distribution Trades Workers. For qualifications in Transmission and Powerline Vegetation Control, students were training towards the intended occupation of Electrical or Telecommunications Trades Assistant.

The majority of training is carried out through either TAFE institutes or private training providers at similar rates for each. For TAFE institute subject enrolments, over 90% were funded by international fee-for-service whereas for private providers over 90% was funded by domestic fee-for-service. Two-thirds of subject funding for enterprise providers was through government sources.

Over a third of students who enrolled during 2017 resided overseas. The majority of students who lived in Australia were from Queensland and Victoria at about 20% each and 14% were from New South Wales.

Apprentice and trainee commencements have generally declined since 2010, down to 177 commencements in 2016; however, they increased in 2017 to 271 commencements. Completion levels have remained fairly stable over the last few years but dropped in 2017 to 339. The majority of apprentices were training towards the occupation of Electrical Distribution Trades Workers, however, there were also some aimed at the occupation of Electrical Linesworker. Apprenticeships and traineeships were reported to a similar extent by New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

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

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast the top priority skills required for the ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail sector are:

  • High voltage
  • Health and safety
  • Risk management
  • Testing and diagnosis
  • Planning.

According to the job vacancy data, the top advertised VET-related occupations are Electricians, Other Building and Engineering Technicians and other Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers. The top generic skills in demand are communication, planning and computer literacy skills.

The 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:

  • Technology
  • Design mindset / Thinking critically / System thinking / Solving problems
  • Language, literacy and numeracy (LLN)
  • Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
  • Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social intelligence

The Skills Forecast outlines a few key challenges and opportunities for this sector.

  • Emerging technology and automated systems: Tools such as connecting devices, sensors and data collection systems will enable higher resolution data collection of electricity use, which companies can view to analyse demand and consumers can monitor and adjust their electricity usage.
  • The changing grid: Distributed energy resources and other new systems will encourage new market structures, disruptive innovations and new business models.
  • Environment and the adoption of reliable renewables: Government policies plan to promote the adoption of renewable electricity, including sources from wind, solar, hydro, and bioenergy. As these new forms of generation become cheaper, and adoption is increased, the industry will need to ensure the workforce has the required skills to interact and adapt to new processes being implemented.
  • Energy security: The security of the electrical infrastructure and protection of consumer data is already a major focus in the industry. This is to prevent attacks causing disruption to the economy and ensuring the privacy of every customer is met. As the network becomes ‘smarter’, developing infrastructure which is reliable and resilient to cyber-attacks will be necessary. The industry will need to ensure the workforce is trained appropriately so we can provide safe and continuous access to power.
  • Skills for new services: The emergence of new technologies and innovations entering the market will require an interconnected, data-rich environment and a highly skilled workforce that can service these requirements.

The skills forecast reports an almost 60% skills shortage in the occupations of Educators, Health/Safety/Hazard Specialists, Electrical Engineers, Instrumentation Engineers and Rail Signalling Engineers. The reasons for this include an aging workforce and staff retiring, salaries considered too low, the cost and time to achieve a qualification, high staff turnover and competition from other organisations.

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 (for example, STEM, digital literacy) in power system planning and operation. 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 a 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 2018, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal.

  • employment projections to May 2023, by ANZSIC 3 digit industry:
    • 262 Electricity Transmission
    • 263 Electricity Distribution
    • 260 Electricity Supply, nfd.
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2023:
    • 3422 Electrical Distribution Trades Workers
    • 3411 Electricians
    • 2333 Electrical Engineers
    • 3123 Electrical Engineering Draftspersons and Technicians.


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 .

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2000 to 2018, 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
  • Power Systems
    • UET30812 - Certificate III in ESI - Power Systems - Distribution Cable Jointing
    • UET30612 - Certificate III in ESI - Power Systems - Distribution Overhead
    • UET30712 - Certificate III in ESI - Power Systems - Rail Traction
    • UET30512 - Certificate III in ESI - Power Systems - Transmission Overhead
    • UET40512 - Certificate IV in ESI - Power Systems Substations
    • UET40612 - Certificate IV in ESI - Power Systems Network Infrastructure
    • UET50109 - Diploma of ESI - Power Systems
    • UET50212 - Diploma of ESI - Power Systems
    • UET50312 - Diploma of ESI - Power Systems Operations
    • UET60109 - Advanced Diploma of ESI - Power Systems
    • UET60212 - Advanced Diploma of ESI - Power Systems
  • Transmission
    • UET20412 - Certificate II in Transmission Structure and Line Assembly
    • UET20511 - Certificate II in National Broadband Network Cabling (Electricity Supply Industry Assets)
    • UET20612 - Certificate II in ESI - Asset Inspection
    • UET30109 - Certificate III in ESI - Transmission
    • UET30206 - Certificate III in ESI - Distribution
    • UET30209 - Certificate III in ESI - Distribution
    • UET30306 - Certificate III in ESI - Rail Traction
    • UET30309 - Certificate III in ESI - Rail Traction
    • UET30409 - Certificate III in ESI - Cable Jointing
    • UET30912 - Certificate III in ESI - Remote Community Utilities Worker
    • UET40206 - Certificate IV in ESI - Substation
    • UET40412 - Certificate IV in ESI - Network Systems
  • Powerline Vegetation Control
    • UET20312 - Certificate II in ESI - Powerline Vegetation Control.

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, 2017 program enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2017 subject enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2017 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 2017 commencements
  • 2010 to 2017 completions 
  • 2017 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2017 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2018, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2018,

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2015 and June 2018 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
    • Technicians and trades worker
    • Machinery operators and drivers
    • 26 Electricity Supply.
  • Employers
    • 3411 Electricians
    • 3129 Other Building and Engineering Technicians
    • 3999 Other Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers
    • 3212 Motor Mechanics
    • 3121 Architectural, Building and Surveying Technicians
    • 26 Electricity Supply.
Updated: 21 Oct 2019
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