Beon Energy Solutions (Beon) was among three finalists vying for the Clean Energy Council’s Community Engagement Award last night for its training and employment program that provided local people from diverse backgrounds a career start in Victoria’s booming solar industry.
The awards were presented at the Australian Clean Energy Summit Gala dinner in Sydney, with Beon shortlisted for implementing the strategic employment program at Karadoc Solar Farm located near Mildura in north-west Victoria.
The program was developed when Beon recognised a skills gap in the local solar industry during the planning phase of the 664-acre 112MW solar farm.
In response, Beon partnered with local government, job networks, employment agencies and organisations to provide work for more than 250 locals, including long-term unemployed, those facing barriers to employment, recently-arrived migrants, members of the local Aboriginal community, people on community based correction orders, and people with Asperger’s and Autism.
The program involved Beon and SuniTAFE developing the first solar traineeship program for large scale solar in Australia, with 15 individuals from the region undertaking a Certificate II in Electrotechnology and were employed at Karadoc.
Beon and SuniTAFE also created 26 new electrical apprentice positions at the site. It was the highest number of apprentices to work on a large scale solar farm in Australia.
Beon’s General Manager Glen Thomson said it was an honour be shortlisted as a finalist for the award.
“Congratulations to the other finalists in our category. It’s exciting to see such a high calibre of projects being implemented across our industry, delivering clean energy and supporting economic and job growth,” Mr Thomson said.
“As Victoria’s solar industry grows, we understand the importance of providing education programs, new skills and apprenticeships so people can seize the opportunities available through the renewable sector.
“Being named as a finalist is recognition that by taking the time to invest in people and partnerships within the local community, organisations like Beon can provide real and lasting benefits to the regions we operate in.”
Mr Thomson said the program established at Karadoc would be replicated at other Beon sites.
“The workforce we needed at Karadoc was large and it was a challenge to be able to source those skills locally. With Victoria’s north-west region becoming one of Australia’s solar hubs, rather than looking elsewhere for workers, we chose to address the skills gap and this will have long-lasting benefits for the region,” he said.
Many of the workers and most of the apprentices from Karadoc Solar Farm are now working at the nearby Yatpool solar farm, allowing them to continue their training and careers in this exciting industry.