Skip navigation

Interim findings from our Clean Energy Jobs Pathways Initiative

A First Nations Clean Energy Network project has found where targets for First Nations employment in Renewable Energy Zones exist, they demonstrate a lack of ambition, among other findings.

Overview of the project and why we're doing it 

The First Nations Clean Energy Network began a project called the Clean Energy Jobs Pathways Initiative in 2023.

We're working on this project because we know that along with transforming our energy system, we also need to transform our workforce and new opportunities will emerge in the years to come - we want First Nations Australians to be supported to enter the clean energy sector workforce and be able to access quality job opportunities and career pathways as they emerge. 

We’ve also seen that some jurisdictions are starting to put in place targets for First Nations employment. 

With all this activity, we’re concerned that there is little focus or coordination across local, regional and federal levels to support First Nations workers access the education, apprenticeships, experiences, knowledge and support required to take advantage of the opportunities emerging in the energy transition.   

Accordingly, we want to ensure that the range of current efforts in Australia, at regional, state/territory levels and by the Federal Government on developing the workforce for Australia’s transition to a clean energy economy include: 

  • a strong focus on supporting the aspirations of First Nations workers to access quality jobs 
  • the right policy settings and proper funding for programs and services
  • support for First Nations-controlled service providers
  • clear pathways for quality jobs and careers for First Nations Australians into the clean energy sector.  

We also don’t want to reinvent the wheel, and so we want to highlight the approaches that work - particularly highlighting the success of First Nations community-controlled organisations and service delivery providers - but we want to see these services properly funded and supported so they can scale their impact. 

We are working on this project with a range of partners, including from communities, industry, unions and the tertiary and vocational sectors. 

We anticipate finalising our work on this project in early 2024 and presenting findings from the project at that point.

Interim trends and findings 

In the meantime, and after several months of work and conversations we want to share some early trends and findings. 

We’ve set out some of these below, which we’ll continue to test and explore as the project progresses. 

Targets for First Nations employment in Renewable Energy Zones are really important, but where they do exist (and frustratingly most jurisdictions haven’t adopted First Nations employment targets), they demonstrate a lack of ambition 

In the National Electricity Market, various jurisdictions are declaring Renewable Energy Zones (REZs), being regions where there will be (or already is) a higher intensity of clean energy infrastructure development. 

Our work is showing that First Nations people make up, on average, 6.2% of the population in REZs.

Our work is also highlighting that the First Nations population in REZs are typically much younger than the general population in REZs. 

These early observations are helping to highlight the real lack of ambition in the targets being set for First Nations employment outcomes in REZs (most jurisdictions, other than NSW which has set a very low target of 1.5%, haven’t set targets at all). 

While we know that setting targets is just one part of a system that works for First Nations, our early analysis suggests that setting ambitious target REZs for First Nations employment combined with strong efforts to support First Nations into job opportunities through wrap-around support will deliver great outcomes. 

With the right pathways and support, First Nations school leavers will assist the clean energy sector meet demand for higher-skilled trades and professionals

In REZs we’ve looked at, there is a high proportion of First Nations who are school students. 

To help speed our way to a clean energy future, talent counts, and our First Nations youth hold the key to our success. Their ingenuity, intelligence and aspirations need to be supported through education and training and this is crucial for energy transition planning. 

With the right mentoring, support and identification of career pathways into quality jobs, these First Nations school students will fill the clean energy professional and trade gaps Australia desperately needs to meet clean energy economy aspirations. 

We are also seeing that there is a risk that clean energy projects may create low-skilled, short-term jobs for First Nations people, which is part of the reason we’re undertaking this project to ensure that First Nations are supported to find quality jobs and career pathways in the clean energy sector. That said, we’ve also seen that some of the low-skilled jobs associated with renewable energy developments can be fantastic at helping tackle long-term unemployment and provide a stepping stone to other career opportunities. 

First Nations community-controlled employment and training providers deliver better results

As we’ve explored the various employment and training providers and the programs they run as part of this project, we’ve seen consistently that First Nations employment and training providers deliver better results and outcomes for First Nations people. 

Ensuring that First Nations-controlled organisations are central designers of systems that deliver training, education and employment services will help ensure that better results are achieved. 

There is a lack of information and education within schools and options within regions about clean energy and clean energy sector opportunities

It has been widely observed, particularly by regional stakeholders and industry, that there is a lack of information, engagement and programs about clean energy within schools in general. 

First Nations school students need to be supported with the right information to navigate training, employment and career paths at different stages of life, and navigating the school-training/study-work pathway is seriously hindered by this lack of information and engagement about the clean energy sector. Getting engagement with this cohort will require concentrated, well-implemented engagement programs. 

Similarly, if you live in a regional area, it’s really hard to get access to tertiary or vocational education and training - it’s just not locally available. With many of these projects taking place in Renewable Energy Zones in regional locations and on First Nations country, we need to rapidly improve access in regional locations to information, vocational and tertiary education and skills development. 

Being culturally competent is really important - if workplaces and our places of education and training aren’t culturally safe then better outcomes won’t be achieved

No one wants to turn up at work or to training or university feeling unsafe or unwelcome. 

That’s why, as part of this study, we’re also exploring the best way for the clean energy sector to improve workplace cultural safety and competency. 

This will likely include a range of actions, which will build on the impact our Best Practice Principles have already had. We also want to continue to share the stories of success and achievement that many First Nations groups are already having in Australia - and how First Nations-owned and controlled projects, programs and systems can deliver better outcomes in a range of areas, including local content.