Environmental Jobs Alliance Geelong (EJAG) celebrated its work with a dinner involving representatives from the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, unionists, community members and local businesses on October 21.
Inspired by the Hunter Valley Jobs Alliance, EJAG formed in March last year. The group is a broad, independent alliance of unionists, community members and environmentalists who campaign for private and public sector funding to support future sustainable jobs.
EJAG wants many more apprenticeships and traineeships within these emerging industries and jobs that are properly paid with good conditions.
EJAG was initiated by delegates on Geelong Trades Hall Council (GTHC) and works closely with it. It is keen to capitalise on opportunities in the Geelong region, particularly because Geelong is one of the regional towns designated to host the Commonwealth Games in 2026.
Addressing the dinner were Chris Couzens, Victorian MP for Geelong, David Ball, Victoria Deputy Secretary Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Jim Mason, City of Greater Geelong Councillor, Dan Cowdell, Geelong Sustainability CEO and Leanne Nelson for the Geelong Manufacturing Council.
Couzens, Parliamentary Secretary for First Nations People, said finding jobs for First Nations people is important, as are joint initiatives, such as the Geelong Aboriginal Employment Taskforce.
She said TAFE could play a major role in addressing skills shortages and the challenges of transitioning to renewable jobs, saying: “We must respond to community expectations.”
Mason outlined local government strategies to achieve carbon neutrality, including shifting to electric vehicles, recovering methane, discouraging new gas projects and pushing for sustainable living design solutions to stimulate job creation.
Mason said infrastructure for the Commonwealth Games needs to be built in such as way that it can be repurposed afterwards, and that local workers and suppliers need to be prioritised.
Nelson reported how manufacturing is gearing up for the change by collaborating with Deakin University on global supply chain solutions and helping the shift towards a renewable future.
Ball said climate change needs to be taken seriously and the transition away from coal and gas towards renewables is urgent.
The MUA supports community initiatives, such as School Strike 4 Climate as well as commercial ventures, such as the 15 offshore wind projects slated for Victoria, including The Star of the South — the offshore wind project in South Gippsland which could provide 18% of the state’s energy needs.
Cowdell said 5 year projections from Iron Bark Sustainability and Beyond Zero Emissions estimated there would be more than 24,000 jobs created in the region if swift action to decarbonise the energy sector is taken.
Nationally, Cowdell said, more than 1.8 million long-term jobs are possible. He said building up skilled trade worker base is urgent, given the severe skills shortage, and that unions will be part of this drive.
Cowdell’s concern with the lack of apprenticeships and the lack of clear pathways for people to become apprentices since the demise of large manufacturing industries resonated with the crowd.
All agreed there were opportunities to make the transition and that unions need to be involved.
Tim Gooden, GTHC president, closed the dinner stressing EJAG’s important role as a representative body of community members, unions and businesses. “We do not want to be left behind,” Gooden said, suggesting EJAG form a working group to hold a Renewable Jobs Expo next year.
[EJAG meets at Geelong Trades Hall on the last Tuesday of every month at 5.30pm.]