OPPORTUNITIES for Latrobe Valley in the clean energy sector was on the agenda when the Minister for Employment, Vicki Ward, visited the Morwell Innovation Centre last Thursday.

Minister Ward came to meet local workers from the state-funded ‘earn and learn’ jobs program.

“It’s great to be here in Morwell to have a look at what’s going on – to talk to our local workforce and see how they have benefited from our ‘earn and learn’ program,” Minister Ward said.

“There are lots of new jobs being created in our changing energy sector, and we want to make sure that all Victorians have the right support to take advantage of this opportunity. This ‘earn and learn’ jobs program is helping to build a future-ready workforce for this critical sector.”

The state government said the $2.65 million investment would create 130 jobs in the renewable energy industry in Gippsland and Melbourne’s south-east.

“It’s funding that is used to really work with people to help them understand the jobs that they need and the jobs that they want and what are the things they need to get those jobs,” Minister Ward said.

There are career possibilities available in solar hot water manufacture, battery recycling, solar installation, and customer support. Individuals from various backgrounds are invited to apply, including young workers, and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, and those who have been unemployed for a long time.

Jobs: Minister for Employment, Vicki Ward visited local ‘earn and learn’ program participant, Cherie at her job at Alinta Energy’s call centre. Photograph: Zaida Glibanovic

Cherie, a Morwell local, is currently employed as a customer service representative at the Alinta Energy call centre in town. Cherie learned about the project after trying unsuccessfully to find job. She got in touch Maxima, one of the program partners, and was guided through the entire process, from her application to training and finally securing a job.

“I came to Alinta through the program … the support and everything was just phenomenal,” she said.

Cherie said the program was integral to giving her the confidence and skills to work in a call centre and spoke highly of the support she received.

Celebrate: The Minister for Employment was eager to listen to Cherie’s positive comments on the program. Photograph: Zaida Glibanovic

Alinta Energy, owners of Loy Yang B power station, has remained committed to playing its part in the energy transition through innovation. Feasibility studies are underway at Alinta, aiming to decarbonise the plant through sustainably sourced biomass power.

Jobs Victoria is working with the Latrobe Valley Authority, Solar Victoria, and Maxima to implement the initiative, which combines industry expertise, skill development routes, and on-the-ground relationships.

“Maxima for example have got funding to help support workers through – and this is a really important relationship,” Minister Ward said.

“It’s really hard to do things on your own. You need those additional partnerships, and when you’ve got partnerships with businesses like Alinta, when you’ve got partnerships with Maxima, where you’ve got support across the board in the community you can really make good things happen.”

Help: Maxima Groups, Kate Harrington and Tori Christian flanking successful earn and leaner, Cherie.

A strong energy workforce is critical to the state government meeting its ambitious target of 95 per cent renewable energy generation by 2035, which will allegedly create 59,000 jobs, mainly in construction, and an additional 6000 apprentices.

“We know that this is an emerging sector. That this is an important employer and an important future employer,” the Employment Minister added.

The Member for Eastern Victoria, Harriet Shing, said the ‘earn and learn’ project was another opportunity for Gippslanders to begin careers in a growing sector closer to home.

Locals who are looking for work are encouraged to phone employment agencies. There are still places available in the ‘earn and learn’ program for those who are struggling to find purposeful work.

New recruits who enrol in the programme are put in safe, entry-level roles for at least 12 months before receiving wraparound assistance to help them advance in their careers.

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