In Johannesburg, City Power has heeded the call from National Treasury to contribute to improving work experience skills for many of the unemployed youth across the country by employing 24 electrical engineering students with the end goal of producing certified engineers over the next three years.
Managing director for City Power, Sicelo Xulu, says, “The response we received from our advertisement was overwhelming. Almost 200 qualified engineers came to our head office in Johannesburg to apply. It was disheartening to see how many young people are sitting at home with degrees, unable to find work and, unfortunately, we could only take 24 learners this cycle. We need to find a way to incorporate the remaining qualified applicants and we challenge other utilities and private sector to consider taking graduates which we could not employ.”
The provision of this on-the-job training will not only benefit students with required experience and addressing the issue of shortages of work-ready skills in the country, it will also benefit them as the utility responds more quickly to service disruption and improved performance efficiencies while ensuring skills transfer.
Government is making a concerted effort to professionalise the engineering field in the country. The utility has partnered with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) on a special joint initiative known as ‘Road to Recruitment’.
“There are not enough professional engineers in the country; this initiative is not just good for City Power or ECSA – ultimately, it will raise competency levels of engineers in the country. We need other energy utilities to join the cause by providing on-the-job training,” says Xulu.
The absence of professional engineers in the country is what drove ECSA and National Treasury to pledge allegiance to City Power to rectify this shortfall. The programme is designed to challenge other utilities to follow suit and hire “young minds” to assist in elevating the sector through ‘professionalisation’.
National Treasury has allocated a R7.7-million budget for the programme that will be used as remuneration for the learners during the course of three years. The programme is designed for individuals who wish to be registered as professional engineers. By participating in the programme learners will become recognised as professional ECSA members.
In order to qualify for ‘professionalisation’, applicants must possess accredited qualifications in the engineering field. “Employers are increasingly requiring registration with ECSA as a prerequisite for appointment to certain engineering positions. Graduates who have not registered with the professional body will find it difficult to find jobs in the engineering sector. This programme is not only a job opportunity for previously unemployed youth but it also elevates learners’ existing qualifications. The successful implementation of this programme may encourage National Treasury to give us more funding for a larger intake next year,” concludes Xulu.
City Power plans to continue recruiting new graduates once it has selected the top 24 learners that will participate in the programme this cycle. City Power's recruitment policy is governed by an acquisition process where interested applicants are required to respond to a national advertisement.
The utility screens the applicants based on qualifications and selects the most suitable contenders for interviews.