A new Education Model for the Energy Industry

Thomson Bridge introduces a new education model for the energy industry as forecast demand for skilled workers to build Australia’s new energy infrastructure indicates acute shortages.

Across Australia, governments and industry are mobilising to invest in new energy technologies that will reshape our energy market. In NSW, government initiatives are encouraging a significant pipeline of new energy infrastructure to be built and operated in dedicated renewable energy zones (REZs) to assist in the transition away from coal. But there are not enough skilled workers to do the job.

Big infrastructure projects require a trained and competent workforce and we’re working closely with industry, government and regulators to map the skills needed. We need skilled workers to prepare the foundations, build, operate, maintain and interface with the powergrid to ensure safe, reliable and secure access to electricity.

Critical to a successful bid on these projects will be the bidding consortiums’ ability to demonstrate how they will secure skilled workers, provide access to essential training and contribute to the economic and social benefits of regional and Indigenous communities in which they operate.

As a leading educator in the Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) we have developed smarter ways to help consortiums to deliver a workforce that is skilled and safe to do the job. We’re drawing on our model of delivery in city, regional and rural locations, partnering with other leading educators across public and private sector as well as bringing the worlds digital capabilities to all regions.

 

We can’t do this all on our own, so we are achieving results by forging relationships with like-minded private training providers such as Indigenous owned civil and construction training provider Iron Bark Training, headquartered in Wagga Wagga. In addition, we’ve established a partnership with TransGrid for apprenticeship programs for transmission line workers, and licensed technology developed by Macquarie University’s Department of Human Psychology.

We’ve recently agreed to license a powergrid simulator that will contribute to education of the powergrid. This technology comes from IncSys Academy, based in Seattle where they have serviced North American Electricity Networks for training in fault finding and emergency response for decades and ties nicely into the recently completed national Training Needs Analysis for Power Systems Operators undertaken in partnership with AEMO. 

These collaborations to deliver timely, targeted training will enhance numerous resourcing tasks for companies participating in these major infrastructure projects including pre-employment programs, upskilling, meeting project cultural and regional employment targets, and providing an on-going compliance management service and systems to the ESI and Civil Construction and Resources industries.

The Energy Transformation is of a scale beyond all predictions. Across Australia, governments and industry are mobilising to invest in new energy technologies that will reshape our energy market.

A key indicator is in NSW, where government initiatives are encouraging a significant pipeline of new energy infrastructure to be built and operated in dedicated renewable energy zones (REZs) to assist in the transition away from coal. But there are not enough skilled workers to do the job.

Private consortiums looking to bid on these projects will be evaluated on many criteria. Critical to a successful bid will be the consortiums’ ability to demonstrate how they will secure skilled workers, provide access to essential training and contribute to the economic and social benefits of regional and Indigenous communities in which they operate.

Thomson Bridge and our education partners are working collaboratively with network owners, private investors in generation, and the successful bidders who build this infrastructure, to ensure workforces who construct and operate these assets have the necessary skills to do the job.

We are also assisting the consortiums that are bidding for new assets by helping them satisfy requirements around securing a skilled workforce and ensuring that these programs contribute to project KPIs involving contribution to culture and community in these regional locations.

As a leading educator in the Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) we have developed smarter ways to help consortiums to deliver a workforce that is skilled and safe to do the job. We’re drawing on our model of delivery in city, regional and rural locations, partnering with other leading educators across public and private sector as well as bringing the worlds digital capabilities to all regions.

Thomson Bridge is delivering on its vision to provide access to the skills and knowledge that Australian workforces will need to build and operate the transforming energy landscape. 

And there is no time to waste, as the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) recently observed in its Integrated Systems Plan, “So far, the National Electricity Market’s transformation has outpaced all expectations.”

AEMO’s Integrated Systems Plan, (AEMO ISP) which is drawn up biannually after extensive consultation with industry, policymakers, governments and other stakeholders recently upgraded its base case outlook to the “Step Change” scenario rather than the “Central” scenario used in its 2020 blueprint.

Commenting on this, The Financial Review observed that AEMO’s base case now anticipates a near-doubling of electricity consumed from the grid to 330 terawatt-hours by 2050 as transport, heating, cooking and industrial processes shift to electricity from petrol or natural gas. It anticipates the construction of nine times the National Energy Market’s (NEM) existing large-scale wind and solar generation, from 15 gigawatts to 140 GW.

But to realise all of this investment in grid transmission, renewable generation and storage at the speed required to replace outgoing coal power, and meet state targets, the industry will require ready access to skilled workers that Australia doesn’t currently have.

Thomson Bridge is helping energy infrastructure organisations meet the workforce demands by providing safety, skills and compliance services so that they can build and maintain a competent workforce; operate with safe and consistent work practices; and meet regulatory compliance and audit readiness.

The current shortfall of qualified workers for transmission line work in Australia is expected to exacerbate when multiple new and upgrade transmission line projects run concurrently across the country.

“Big infrastructure projects require a trained and competent workforce and we’re working closely with industry, government and regulators to map the skills needed. We need skilled workers to prepare the foundations, build, operate, maintain and interface with the powergrid to ensure safe, reliable and secure access to electricity.  We’re actively seeking education partners to develop a streamlined process to deliver that.” said Lisa Parkinson, Managing Director of Thomson Bridge.

In NSW alone there is a coordinated plan to unlock private sector investment in priority energy infrastructure which can deliver least-cost energy to customers to 2040 and beyond. The Strategy forms part of the government’s broader plan to make energy more affordable, secure investment in new power stations and network infrastructure and ensure new technologies deliver benefits for consumers.  The Central-West Orana, New England and South-West REZs will unlock a significant pipeline of large-scale renewable energy and storage projects, while supporting up to $20.7 billion of private sector investment in NSW regions and over 5,000 construction jobs at their peak.

This builds on existing programs of transmission line interconnection with Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, and unlocking more power from the Snowy Hydro Scheme. The $2 billion Project Energy Connect, is kicking off and will require many workers to be trained and authorised in Wagga Wagga and along the project corridor to South Australia.

Our focus is to develop a network of regional hubs for training and skills verification that will, in aggregate, constitute a NSW Electricity Supply Industry Centre of Excellence for today and the future evolving needs of the new energy industry.

We’re achieving this by forging relationships with like-minded private training providers such as indigenous owned Iron Bark Training, headquartered in Wagga Wagga. We’re also reaching out to Universities that provide complementary education services along the continuum of knowledge and skills necessary to secure a skilled future proof workforce. And this is supplemented by leading edge international learning tools such as powergrid simulation.

This is an exciting time to rethink education, and foster a model that is flexible, agile and physically decentralised to reach regional, rural and remote communities, and relies on digital technology to bring communities and educators together.

“We can’t do this all on our own, so we are seeking out best of breed partners. In addition to the Indigenous owned civil and construction training provider, Iron Bark, we’ve established a partnership with TransGrid for apprenticeship programs for transmission line workers, and licensed technology developed by Macquarie University’s Department of Human Psychology. This online, diagnostic tool assists energy network control room and field operators to hone their ability to perform vital tasks under pressure, such as diagnosing network faults, responding to emergencies, such as weather events and cyber security attacks, and performing network restorations.

We’ve cast our net wide, and recently agreed to license a powergrid simulator that will contribute to education of the powergrid.  This technology comes from IncSys Academy, based in Seattle where they have serviced North American Electricity Networks for training in fault finding and emergency response for decades and ties nicely into the recently completed national Training Needs Analysis for Power Systems Operators undertaken in partnership with AEMO.  This provides solid foundations for our ability to meet evolving needs, creating consistency, portability for workers, confidence for private investment, and security of energy supply.

This collaboration to deliver timely, targeted training will enhance numerous resourcing tasks for companies participating in these major infrastructure projects including pre-employment programs, upskilling, meeting project cultural and regional employment targets, and providing an on-going compliance management service and systems to the ESI and Civil Construction and Resources industries.

The pace of change is difficult to predict, but we do know that thoughtful and entrepreneurial approaches to skills development is fundamental to meeting this change. Heralding a new industry in green hydrogen, Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) recently signed an MoU with German renewable energy giant E.ON.

RenewEconomy magazine reported that the MoU would help lead the decarbonisation of Europe and to strengthen security of green energy supplies at a time when Europe seeks to reduce its energy dependence on fossil fuels from Russia as quickly as possible. FFI’s Andrew Forest insisted that the energy for the project would come from the wind and the sun in Australia and be shipped to Europe in the form of green ammonia and also in liquid hydrogen.

There is an extraordinary opportunity to do this well, to create skilled workers to contribute to current and future employment and hence economic sustainability for communities in regional and remote locations.

For more information contact Lisa Parkinson, MD Thomson Bridge

www.thomsonbridge.com