Media release: Premier Winde says the Western Cape has the skills Eskom needs to help fix it.
“This latest barrage of load shedding may have passed,” said Premier Alan Winde, “but the country’s power system is still precarious; and the threat of further mass outages remains a reality.”
The Premier warned Eskom is not only grappling with a power generation crisis but also “brain drain”.
He added: “It is no secret one of the many challenges facing Eskom is its dearth of skilled employees, such as engineers, who are desperately needed to assist the state-owned power company in ending rolling power cuts – for good. Unprecedented interventions are clearly required.”
Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan, has reached out to trade union Solidarity asking it to provide a list of people with the required technical skills to help address the skills shortage at Eskom.
The utility urgently needs senior artisans and experienced engineers. Premier Winde urged young budding engineers in the province, those still studying for their qualifications, to set their sights on the company, to do their bit in tackling the country’s energy crisis and growing need for more power generation going forward.
Despite the skills shortfall at Eskom, a recent study showed the company is still seen as a sought-after employer in South Africa. Eskom was ranked number six - out of 10 - in the survey, carried out by employer branding agency Universum Global, under its “Engineering/Technology” section.
The Premier said: “This presents the province’s youth, those who intend to pursue careers in fields related to energy production, and the like, with opportunities to work at Eskom and help it in the future.”
The Western Cape Government (WCG) acknowledges load shedding is not just an Eskom problem, but a challenge for the entire country. Every viable solution, no matter who offers it, needs to be considered if we are going to end mass power outages.
To this end, the Premier said: “The Western Cape has the nascent required skills to help Eskom, and the WCG is more than willing to offer any assistance it can.”
The Western Cape Department of Human Settlements runs accredited youth empowerment programmes focused on training in numerous artisanal fields. From 2019 to 2022 nearly 400 young people – and counting – have benefitted from this initiative, with many of them leaving with certificates in technical training.
The Provincial Department of Transport and Public Works supports skills development through various initiatives, ranging from training artisans at its Bellville Workshop, to contractor development.
Since 2006 the department has also run the Masakh’iSizwe bursary programme. It prioritises financially disadvantaged youth, particularly women, keen on studying, among other professions, civil, mechanical and transportation engineering.
Even from school level, the WCG is starting to prepare our youth to tackle issues like load shedding and any future challenges affecting Eskom. “The Western Cape Department of Education has adopted a STEAMAC focus – Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, Mathematics, Arts, and Coding/Cloud Computing – to ensure that our learners are developing the kinds of skills our provincial and national economy need, both now and in the future,” said Provincial Education Minister David Maynier. He added: “We have been hard at work expanding access to learning opportunities in the technical and vocational fields and investing in workshops and other facilities so that our learners can get practical experience to prepare them for post-school training and employment.”
The Department has 25 Schools of Skills in our province, two public ordinary schools that have a School of Skills stream, and a pilot project offering Grade 8 and 9 skills subjects in 23 selected public ordinary high schools which was started in 2021.
On the need for more artisans and engineers, Western Cape Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Minister, Anton Bredell said: “We support the call by Eskom’s Group Chief Executive, Andre de Ruyter, to reinvigorate artisan and technical training programmes the utility used to be famous for.”
But the Provincial Minister lamented: “This training focus was lost over the past two decades. As far as I understand, calls to reinstate apprenticeship and mentor programmes have in the past been met with resistance from larger trade unions, except for Solidarity. They (Solidarity) have worked over the past few years to build a database of skilled people who could in theory return to Eskom employment, and this is what they are offering Minister Gordhan now.”
Premier Winde emphasised: “The WCG is proactive, and will remain so, in building skills for the future to ensure we avoid further load shedding in the years to come.”