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Chandler Macleod Group power a diverse solar farm industry in Australia

Australia is in the middle of an important transition from fossil fuel-based energy systems to more renewable energy options¹. At its current rate, it is on track for a goal of 50% renewable electricity by 2025².

In 2018, Chandler Macleod Group (CMG) was appointed as the workforce management provider for a new 112 Megawatt Karadoc Solar Farm being constructed by Beon Energy Solutions. Remotely located in North West Victoria -- Australia's top solar spot due to the state's highest solar exposure and average sunshine hours -- the farm will generate enough power to supply 110,000 homes.

Prioritizing social value

CMG was tasked with recruiting and employing a diverse and strictly local workforce of 300 people during 2018. The nearest town, Mildura is 35km away with a population of approximately 53,000 people. Mildura's main industries revolve around farming and agriculture, but the rate of residents on long-term unemployment benefits is double the Victorian state average at 8%³.

CMG partnered with six local community groups to ensure that the majority of the construction workers were locally sourced, and that people were from a variety of different backgrounds including Indigenous, Mature Workers, Long-term Unemployed, and Female. CMG delivered a diverse workforce; 24% aged over 45 years, 5% Women, and 17% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Australia's Indigenous population is 3%). A proportion of the candidate pool were illiterate and required hands on assistance to complete registrations.

Workforce team photo at the Kardoc solar farm

To overcome the high proportion of local workers coming from outside the construction sector, CMG put together a custom 5-day pre-employment training course. The program helped educate candidates on how a solar farm is built, and safety processes and systems. Approximately 70% of the workforce has never worked on a solar farm before and at the end of this project they will walk away with new skills and experience for future employment in the renewable energy industry.

Betting on passion

Christian Larsen, Chandler Macleod Electrical Contractor

Among the applicants was Christian Larson, a husband and father to three girls under ten. While competing in the 2007 Victorian Water Skiing Championships, Christian crashed into the water at 160km per hour. The resulting injuries and two-month coma led to a year in hospital and a brain impairment, which affected his right arm and leg.

Returning to work was a challenge, and Christian found it difficult to keep in steady employment due to his injuries. When Christian applied to work with CMG in 2018, he was very upfront about his injuries and limitations. CMG were quick to recognize his 'never give up' attitude, which makes him a perfect match to Recruit Group's 'bet on passion' philosophy.

Christian is currently employed onsite at the Karadoc Solar Farm as an electrician working with the QA team. He says that the employment opportunity has given him personal satisfaction whilst providing for his young family. CMG are proud to have helped Christian unleash his potential.

Diverse workforces enhance the industry

As a growth industry, renewable energy providers have the potential to have a remarkable impact on diversity in their workforces. The Solar Energy Industries Association believe a more diverse workforce will enhance the industry through broadened recruitment pools, increased retention and a more engaged, productive and fulfilled workforce ⁴. CMG wholeheartedly agree.

Minister Lily D'Ambrosio at the Kardoc solar farm with the Chandler Macleod workforce

References

  1. Rebecca Pearl-Martinez & Jennie C. Stephens (2016) Toward a gender diverse workforce in the renewable energy transition, Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy, 12:1, 8-15, DOI: 10.1080/15487733.2016.11908149
    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15487733.2016.11908149
  2. At its current rate, Australia is on track for 50% renewable electricity in 2025. (2018). [Blog] Ecogeneration.
    http://www.ecogeneration.com.au/at-its-current-rate-australia-is-on-track-for-50-renewable-electricity-in-2025/
    [Accessed 18 Sep. 2018].
  3. The State of Mildura Rural City Report 2018
    https://www.mildura.vic.gov.au/Council/Major-Projects/State-of-Mildura-Report-2018
  4. SEIA. (2018). Diversity Best Practices Guide for the Solar Industry | SEIA
    https://www.seia.org/research-resources/diversity-best-practices-guide-solar-industry
    [Accessed 18 Sep. 2018].