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Why it could take 2 million Aussies changing jobs to reach net-zero emissions

If Australia is going to stick to its word and become a "net-zero nation" within the next 27 years, it's got a serious staffing problem.
The top bodies representing Australia's renewable energy industry say that Australia is desperately short of workers for "clean economy jobs" - by about 2 million people.
It's long been the dream of the nation's energy industry, but if they're going to make it a reality, they'll need millions more "boots, brogues and heels" on the ground.
Clean Economy Jobs
Martine had spent her career working in the high-flying world of fashion and publicity, until one morning she woke up and felt the call to leave the world of marketing. (Supplied)
Martine had spent her career working in the high-flying world of fashion and publicity, until one day she woke up and felt the need to leave the world of marketing.
"I was working for an agency and our values just completely didn't align," she told
"It wasn't interesting to me anymore."
So she quit the industry that, in her words, just cared about "putting things on football players".
Trading the world of fashion for the farm and field, she is one of the thousands of Australians who have reskilled into "clean economy jobs".
Now, she's a community consultant for Tilt Renewables and travels the country to meet with the people of small towns and regional communities, where she hears feedback on the energy infrastructure developments proposed for their area.
Sparks fly as robots converge to weld joints on a Skoda car body at the Skoda plant
Fastest growing and fastest declining jobs over the next five years
She's one of the thousands of Aussies who have taken the leap into a "clean economy job", even if it's not welding wind turbines or assembling solar panels.
The top peak bodies for the renewables sector have estimated that Australia needs 2 million new jobs to reach net zero by 2050.
They say the lower target of 43 per cent less emissions by 2030 will still need 200,000 people to change jobs to make it happen.
Holly Taylor, the Energy Efficiency Council's head of strategy, said workers of all backgrounds were needed.
"The whole point is that we don't just need electricians and engineers," she said.
"Of course, we definitely need them.
"But we also need project managers and investment analysts and insulation installers, net zero business advisors, blade technicians, the list goes on."
"So it doesn't matter if you've studied a STEM subject or an arts degree.
"There's a role for you in Australia's clean economy."
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And the easiest green economy job to switch into, without any prior trade or technical knowledge?
Become an insulator, she said, praising the work that they do to improve energy efficiency in Aussie homes.
Insulation Installer
With hot, confined spaces and labourers wages, not all insulators have it easy. (Getty)
Ashleigh was initially on her way to finishing a carpentry apprenticeship when an injury forced a switch in career.
Now she installs roof insulation with Alexander Watson Home Insulation, a Canberra-based company.
"Being an installer is rewarding work – there's always a better end goal to reach," she said.
"And for people in need of a job, there's so much work – we're booked up to January for ceiling insulation."
That doesn't mean the work is easy.
With hot, confined spaces and labourers' wages, it's still hard work by anyone's definition.
But it is a good example of a "clean economy" job with the highest predicted demand for employment in the future.
Kane Thornton, CEO of the Clean Energy Council, told there was a huge level of capital funding and enthusiasm in the private sector for a clean energy transition.
But at a national level, he stressed, Australia is now locked in a "clean energy arms race."
"Every other country in the world is doing essentially what we're trying to do," he said. 
"And that is really quickly moving away from coal and gas to renewables."
To make it happen, he claimed strong and clear government policy on green jobs was needed so businesses could "have more confidence that these are good quality jobs, and that they'll be here soon".
While they were once fighting for relevance in a market crowded by fossil fuels, finding and reskilling a workforce is now one of the main challenges facing the renewable energy industry.
"And that says something about the opportunity before us," Thornton said.
A broad group of industry associations, education institutions, local governments and other non-government organisations is calling for the federal and state governments to take action to secure these workforce goals so Australia's global emissions commitments can also be met.

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