How can you make a meaningful impact to a local community for a construction project that is less than 12 months from start to finish? That is the question Beon Energy Solutions’ (Beon) management team asked themselves before starting construction on the 112 MW Karadoc Solar Farm, located 35 km south of Mildura in Victoria.
The short answer is through a strategic employment and training program with three fundamental pillars:
This approach saw the Karadoc Solar Farm provide employment opportunities for:
In addition to these employment programs, Beon partnered with SuniTAFE Mildura and a local group training organisation to create 25 new electrical apprenticeships. Of these 25 apprentices, 9 were Aboriginal, including 1 Aboriginal woman.
Although these employment opportunities were short term, for many it was the opportunity they needed to return to work and for some, to turn their lives around.
Brian was one of the workers who benefitted from the program. A few years earlier his wife passed away and as a result he became depressed, started drinking, made some poor life choices and ended up in prison. When he got out, he was unable to get a job, which meant that he couldn’t get custody of his son.
But through Beon’s partnership with the Victorian Department of Justice, Brian was given a second chance through a job at the Karadoc Solar Farm. It was a chance he seized with both hands and as a result was recognised as one of the best workers on the farm. Brian also managed to get his self-esteem back and the regular pay meant he got a house and, most importantly, custody of his son.
Another person who benefitted from the solar farm was Murtaza, an Afghan refugee who arrived in Mildura in 2014 at 16 years old. He began his apprenticeship in 2018 as part of Beon’s partnership with SuniTAFE Mildura.
“Since starting my apprenticeship, I have made a lot of friends and learned more about Australian culture and I think they have learned a bit about mine. People look at me now not as a refugee, but as a work mate, and some I hope, as a friend,” Murtaza said.
Working on the Karadoc Solar Farm is not just a good outcome for Murtaza and his family. It’s also good for the local community because it is part of the process of bringing people from diverse cultures together and having them work in teams, which in turn overcomes barriers and builds community. This is what large-scale solar projects are doing in regional communities throughout Australia.
These initiatives require all levels of management on board – which ultimately is why this program succeeded at Karadoc. And that success was not just in terms of an employment program that made a positive contribution to the local community, but in completing the project on time.
As then Mildura Mayor Mark Eckel said in relation to Beon’s employment program, “The way Beon has gone about the construction of the Karadoc Solar Farm in terms of engaging with the Mildura community is to be commended and should be seen as a model for future solar farms wishing to operate in the region.”
Many of the workers from Karadoc and most of the apprentices continue to work with Beon on other projects and will no doubt be able to find ongoing employment at other solar farms to be built in the region over the next few years.
Beon’s approach to employment and training at the Karadoc Solar Farm clearly demonstrates that fulfilling your corporate social responsibility is not just good for the community, it is good for business.
About the company
Beon is a future-focused energy solutions business with a heritage in safety and reliability. The company is a leader is the deployment of large-scale renewable energy and infrastructure projects, with extensive expertise in design, construction and maintenance. Beon has an enviable track record of partnering with clients to reduce costs and project timelines, leading to faster commissioning without compromising safety and quality. Its team of dedicated energy experts bring a commitment to safety, performance and reliability as well as a desire to drive and embrace change.