The Australian Power Institute (API) is a not for profit national organization established by the electricity power industry to boost the quality and numbers of power engineering graduates with the skills and motivation for a career in the energy industry which encompasses:
- Generation utilities
- Transmission utilities
- Distribution utilities
- Manufacturers and suppliers to the industry
- Consultants to the industry, and
- End users of electricity in their operations.
Membership of the API includes 35 of the largest employers in the industry. The API is promoting power engineering to young Australians and helping universities to provide world class education to position power engineering graduates to be “work ready” so they can help deliver solutions for the future success of the power industry and Australia.
The API was formed in October 2004 to facilitate, encourage and promote education, research and training in the electricity supply industry. The establishment of the API by the power industry to address the provision of power engineering professional capacity and capability has been characterised by:
- API growing rapidly to represent all sectors of the Australian power industry, from eight members in 2007 to 35 in 2011
- A wide range of programs to promote the power industry and to improve power engineering capabilities of Australian universities
- Signs of success – more students, higher quality and increased number of bursary students and applicants for new graduate power engineering positions
API has set the benchmark for industry to engage with and support universities, and was recently awarded the 2011 Business Higher Education Roundtable Award for Outstanding Achievement in Collaboration in Higher Education and Training, sponsored by the Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workforce Relations. There is widespread understanding that Australia faces an engineering skills shortage, and that API research of member organisations reinforces forecasts of strong demand for professional power engineering skills. In 2011, a Workforce Planning Survey was completed by 16 of our member companies currently employing a total of 2595 Power Engineers (representing approximately 40% of the existing total professional power engineering workforce) and 254 power engineering consultants.
Key findings of the survey included:
- Demand for engineering graduates will remain at historically high levels for the next 3 years and beyond
- Shortages and recruitment difficulties are being experienced for Senior Engineers universally, and for engineering management very widely
- There remains considerable scope to further improve the preparation and education of engineering students to meet the challenges of the power engineering field.
It is estimated that there are currently approximately 6,500 power engineering professionals in the industry and it is forecast that 1,300 additional graduates will be needed in the next 5 years to meet growth and retirements from the industry. Some skills shortages may be partially offset by the introduction of new technology that requires less staff. Examples include highly automated gas-fired power plants that require less staff than coal-fired plants, and renewable generation technologies (especially wind) that require less operating and maintenance effort.
Growth will occur, however in the distributed energy and energy efficiency sectors, as well as generally in roles associated with developing, designing, and implementing technical changes in the industry. Skills that will be most in demand will be high level professional technologist problem solving skills to support the transformational change in technology and operations which will be demanded.
Competition for engineering talent, particularly from the mining and petroleum sector, is adding significantly to the intensity of demand for scarce professional skills needed in the energy supply industry.