The Illawarra could be the solution to a looming skills shortage in the renewable energy sector under a $12.5 million Labor plan to train the next generation of workers in Wollongong.
A Labor government would establish a $10 million Energy Futures Skills Centre at the University of Wollongong and create a $2.5 million Renewable Energy Training facility at Wollongong TAFE.
Already, there are worker shortages in the sector, with a high demand for professionals, engineers and transmission construction workers as investments in large scale renewable energy projects accelerates.
With the amount of work only expected to increase as $66 billion is ploughed into the sector, skills shortages are expected to create headaches for the timely and affordable delivery of projects.
Renewable energy projects are also up against the wider infrastructure sector, as well as mining, for similarly skilled workers, and the sector traditionally does not pay as well as the resources industry, in particular.
Labor candidate for Whitlam Stephen Jones said if Labor was successful at the upcoming election, the skills centre would deliver the workers needed to power the Illawarra with renewable energy.
"Capability assessments have pointed to shortages of a suitably skilled workforce in renewable energy technologies in the Illawarra as one of the things holding us back and this will deliver that capability," he said.
Training programs delivered at the facility would both support new entrants to the industry, and re-skill those in existing industries for the transition to renewables.
"We need to ensure that the new apprentices have the skills to deal with the new technology," Mr Jones said. "So it's about retooling, re-equipping our existing workforce, and ensuring the workforce have the skills for the future."
Labor Cunningham candidate Alison Byrnes said the facility would ensure that the Illawarra became a hub not just for skills and training but the companies that will be delivering energy into the future.
"These two joint announcements will make sure that we can train our workforce to support these local companies," she said. "We've met some great companies like Green Gravity, EcoJoule, and Hysata who are manufacturing community batteries and hydrogen electrolyzers, right here in the Illawarra and we need to make sure they start up here, stay here and contribute to our local economy."
With the Illawarra identified as one of the NSW government's renewable energy zones (REZ), investment and projects are expected to flow to the region once the Illawarra is formally declared a REZ by the end of 2022.
Other regions, such as the Hunter-Central Coast have already drawn billions in investment and Mr Jones said by having the training centre located in the Illawarra, it would signal the region's readiness for investment.
"We want to ensure that we still make stuff here in the Illawarra, but making it through clean energy technologies, leading the way not only in the invention of the technologies, but training the workforce."
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