7 May 2024

Fyshwick's dedicated EV workshop is officially the envy of Australia

| James Coleman
Join the conversation

CIT automotive teacher Richard Lindsay and apprentices from Canberra BMW. Photo: James Coleman.

There might be fewer moving parts and oily bits in an EV, but when something goes ping, you’ll need a mechanic trained in the nitty gritty of high-voltage automotive electrics and batteries.

That’s a problem.

A recent Deloitte and Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA) report found fewer than 800 of 2000 advertised roles under the emerging “EV technician” banner were filled last year.

This translates to a sector-wide vacancy fill rate of 39 per cent, well below the government’s 67 per cent threshold to declare a job in shortage.

READ ALSO Qantas agrees to $120m settlement after ACCC action over misleading customers

The Federal Government sees an answer in Australia’s first dedicated EV training facility, here in Canberra.

A combined amount of $27.3 million will be poured into the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) campus in Fyshwick over the next five years to help it tackle the growing skills shortage.

In collaboration with Tesla and the Australian National University (ANU), CIT Fyshwick launched a new ‘Certificate III in Automotive Electric Vehicle Technology’ and opened a standalone EV workshop in 2021.

ACT Minister for Skills and Training, Chris Steel, said this was initiated by concerns from the mechanics for the Transport Canberra fleet, who saw the fleet of electric buses coming and “were concerned about being left behind”.

“We have a demand in the ACT for these skills, and that’s why we’re very well place to be able to help train the rest of the nation’s automotive technicians, and providing [educators] with the best practice materials to support teaching in other jurisdictions as well,” Mr Steel said.

The funding will pay for more simulators and a larger workshop. Photo: James Coleman.

Much of the work can be done remotely and on the job in apprenticeship situations, but students fly into Canberra from all over Australia for a combined total of 35 days of face-to-face training and practical assessments on the simulators, and the real deal – a Tesla Model 3.

The course costs $17,000 all up, $2,500 of which is subsidised.

Numbers have grown to the point more than 50 students are enrolled for 2024 across various stages of the course.

The Federal and ACT governments are now investing $9.66 million each to take the workshop to the next level.

The Federal Government is also adding $3.2 million from the ‘TAFE Technology Fund’ to update the campus’s automotive facilities, and $4.8 million to fast-tack the work “due to the urgency of this important initiative”.

Local car dealerships are putting many of their mechanic apprentices through the program. Photo: James Coleman.

The result will make the CIT’s EV technology workshop the country’s first ‘Centre of Excellence’, a term born out of the ‘National Skills Agreement’, which came into effect 1 January.

This five-year deal between the federal, state and territory governments is designed to address critical skills and workforce shortages across a range of “national priorities”, including gender equality, Closing the Gap, sovereign capability, food security, and net-zero emissions.

ACT Minister for Skills and Training Chris Steel, Federal Member for Canberra Alicia Payne, and Federal Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor. Photo: James Coleman.

Federal Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor described it as a “strategic investment” that will more than pay for itself.

“It’s all about investing in our most important resource in this country – our people. If we get that right, then we’re going to see a more productive … economy and a country where people can enjoy a good quality of life because they have the capability to earn decent money,” Mr O’Connor said.

READ ALSO $13.7 million Kingston proposal should not be built on community land, says residents group

Mr Steel says the funding will enable CIT the “triple” the number of apprentices it’s able to accommodate in the program by 2028.

“It will enable us to purchase more electric vehicles for students to work on, buy more simulators, and we’ll be working with the Australian National University on how to create a dual-sector qualification which involves both a vocational education and training qualification.”

There will also be new diploma and degree apprenticeship pathways developed in conjunction with the ANU, including an engineering apprenticeship to equip students for careers in renewable technology.

people standing near electric vehicles

It’s hoped the upgraded facility will be able to accommodate more than 150 students. Photo: James Coleman.

CIT staff will also work with Tesla, mining equipment company Komatsu and the newly formed Australian Mining and Automotive Skills Alliance on what the training should look like.

Key to the funding, the learnings will be shared with TAFEs around Australia.

Automotive teacher Richard Lindsay says the program has enjoyed national reach “for quite some time now” and attracted all sorts of industries interested in upskilling their staff, including car dealerships.

“But we’re very restricted by resources and staffing, but now with this extra boost, it allows us to take more on and help out other states too.”

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Capital Retro8:16 pm 08 May 24

High voltage rechargeable energy storage system = good

Battery = bad

High voltage and very dangerous for a young apprentice. These batteries store more energy than what the average house uses per day

I didn’t get what you meant, CR, until I looked back at the photo. Maybe whoever made the sign just had one of those days you just can’t think of the right word.

Capital Retro7:57 am 12 May 24

Making up the “right words” has become an industry.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.