Better planning needed to ensure jobs for skilled persons in water, energy sectors

About 300 000 graduates in the energy and water sectors in South Africa are seeking employment, some of whom even re-enter into learnerships to stay in the economically active loop, says Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority acting CEO Mpho Mookapele.

Speaking at the Skills Development Summit, on Tuesday, she questioned where these sectors were going wrong in terms of employing those have received training and skills development. She also suggested that there was something wrong with the skills development system at a national level, with a lack of proper skills planning.

 “The government gives us [as training authorities and institutions] targets and the institutions achieve them, but it does not help if these youths go back onto the streets after education. The pipeline is getting full, but with no offtake, it will eventually burst.“Too few people are getting employed and the main fault is planning. Our role is not to put people in class, but the role is to facilitate the conversation between training institutions and industry – without industry, our planning is skewed.”Mookapele added that sector education and training authorities were spending money on research around necessary skills, "when we have employers who know exactly what skills are necessary".“When employers need ten, why are we training 1 000? Let us define what is the energy plan for the country and the growth plans for the country going forward and let industry assist to respond to the skills need accordingly,” she asserted.

“We need skills that will ensure efficient use of energy and affordable energy through innovation. Skills that enable designing and manufacturing solutions that increase energy accessibility and affordability. “The technical skills required are covered, but people need to be taught to create new ventures and new solutions,” she added.During a panel discussion, Rosatom Central and Southern Africa CEO Dmitry Shornikov averred that the nuclear industry was progressing skills development. He said 12 indirect jobs were created for every one job created in the nuclear industry.“On average, a nuclear power plant generates $40-million of employment income a year. The US nuclear power industry employs 100 000 people in nuclear plants, as well as around 470 000 people in supportive jobs.“Construction of a 1 GW nuclear power plant creates about 200 000 temporary jobs, while the life cycle of a nuclear power plant creates about 50 000 jobs,” he pointed out.

Further, Astron Energy senior process engineer Aislin Koopman said the company, which supplies petrochemicals to Caltex fuel stations, has partnered with various educational facilities across South Africa, including schools and universities.“As an employer, we realise that people come into the industry with education and we need to ensure that they can become a contributing member of the industry.”She added that Astron had launched a graduate programme in 2012, which has resulted in 105 students graduating. Additionally, the company has in-service training programmes, as well as apprenticeships that train artisans during Astron’s shutdown periods.

The company has a science and mathematics education advancement centre in Cape Town, and a programme called Partners for Possibility, for schools to help mobilise their communities. Astron has an energy plan that it progresses and releases every year, which is an example of what more private companies can do skills development in various sectors.

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