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How to get a job in the energy and utilities sector

Peter Nicholls

There are a variety of paths into the energy and utilities sector for people with a range of professional and academic backgrounds. In this article, we will focus primarily on graduates with technical degrees, but will also touch on possible entry points for students from other disciplines.

Who’s hiring?

The best place to start in answering this question is Prosple Australia’s directory of graduate employers in the energy and utilities sector. There you’ll find a range of employers with graduate intake programs, from smaller companies like BidEnergy to industry giants like SA Power Networks and influential regulators, such as the Australian Energy Market Operator.

A word to the wise though: it’s worth bearing in mind that many businesses in other industries also maintain a presence in energy and utilities. For example, if you’re particularly interested in renewable energy, it may be worth looking at mining, oil, and gas, where, surprisingly, many larger businesses are in the process of ‘future-proofing’ themselves by expanding their investments in sustainable energy solutions.

Do you need a related degree?

You will require a technical degree for many of the fastest growing jobs in the energy utilities sector. Currently, the sector is seeking graduates in chemistry, civil and structural engineering, electrical engineering, environmental science, materials engineering, mathematics, mechanical engineering, power systems, software development, physics, and telecommunications. This encompasses a wide range of degree paths in science, technology, engineering, and maths. Some positions may require postgraduate qualifications.

Of course, the size of large organisations frequently necessitates the creation of various in-house positions. Consequently, there are also many non-technical careers related to finance, IT, human resources, production, maintenance, procurement, management, law, customer service, sales, and research.

Which attributes will employers expect you to have?

In addition to the technical or non-technical skills specific to your role, you would also benefit from learning which qualities are generally considered desirable in energy and utilities graduates. These include expert knowledge of increasingly specialised technologies; the ability to work in a team and manage projects, people, and finances; the flexibility to work on-site, domestically and abroad, when required; the analytical and problem-solving skills required to tackle unfamiliar challenges; highly developed communication skills; and a personable, trustworthy character.

Where can you get work experience?

Many degrees which lead into the energy and utilities sector, such as engineering, have an established tradition of making work experience a compulsory part of one’s coursework. As a result, there are various organisations in this sector that offer structured internships and summer programs to eligible students and postgraduates. They include the Clean Energy Regulator, the Australian Energy Market Operator, Nova Systems, SA Power Networks, TasNetworks, and Zinfra.

Is it necessary to complete postgraduate study?

It’s certainly not necessary to complete postgraduate study in order to qualify for a graduate program in the energy and utilities sector. However, it’s not uncommon for some companies to advertise positions that involve specialised knowledge or research skills best suited to PhD-holders.

The energy and utilities sector offers rewarding graduate career opportunities. To search for internships and grad positions, visit our industry page at Prosple Australia.