Energy sector crippled by skills shortages


The youth need to be encouraged to take up careers in STEM-related fields, says expert.

While the renewable energy sector in South Africa is making strides in providing an alternative energy source for the country’s electricity demand, it has a shortage of required skills in the industry.

The skills required for available jobs in the sector are either in short supply or the skills and qualifications required are available, but experience in the industry is lacking.

There is also a general shortage of skills in the Science, Engineering, Maths and Technology (STEM) fields in South Africa.

Asante Phiri, head of O&M Southern Africa at Enel Green Power South Africa, says the industry needs electrical engineers, operations and maintenance managers and mechanical technicians.

There is also a need to rethink how young people should be educated about the opportunities available and the qualifications that are required. Asante contends that the youth need to be encouraged to take up careers in STEM-related fields.

Asante notes that students are still shying away from these subjects due to a perception that they are difficult subjects.

“School outreach programmes would help the youth understand that although degrees in these fields are challenging, they can be achieved and are necessary to follow careers in renewable energy and to take up the many employment opportunities available,” he says.

Lizeka Dlepu, head of sustainability Southern Africa at EGP RSA, says the company is committed to encouraging young people to enter the renewable energy industry.

In communities where maths and science are not available as subjects, the company provides maths and science teachers so that learners are able to study towards STEM careers at tertiary level.

According to Asante, with financial aid, educational support, and skills development programmes constantly being instituted, there is hope that the skills gap will continue to shrink, and that new job opportunities will become available to the many unemployed in the country.

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