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The Big Question: Sector skills development

The energy sector is currently an exciting space to be in, with developments in renewable energy projects, innovation in energy storage, new base-load generation plants and legislation taking hold around feed-in tariff sand more. Yet, fi nding and keeping the leadership talent and technical specialists to meet the energy sector’s growing demands remains one of the key challenges. The Big Question is: What is preventing the appropriate training, mentoring and skills transfer; why is the utility sector not seen as an attractive career choice and what role should the utility sector, private companies, academia and government play in making the energy industry an enticing place for skilled resources to work? 

Jodie Sherwin Hill
Executive Director
JOMAT Investments

We place high value on implementation in this highly dynamic industry; however, people do not always see this as sustainable from a career perspective. Our budget is aimed at delivering the service; however, where is the money for continued growth and maintenance of our products?

Intelligent individuals and leaders need ever greater roles, responsibilities and challenges to remain interested in their field. We limit the flexibility of the dynamic individuals that come into the sector and as soon as a perceived greater opportunity comes to solve another difficult problem, we lose our intellects to that new field.

Creating competitive environments to allow the skilled resources to stretch their minds and extend.

Francis Maze
Regional Manager,
TANESCO Mbeya – Tanzania

In my experience, utilities across Africa are busy implementing initiatives focused on:

  • Increasing capacity of power generation to meet fast-growing demands;
  • Expanding networks to increase access of electricity;
  • Improving reliability and quality of power supplied by upgrading or constructing new primary substations and introducing network sectionalisers to increase system flexibility; and
  • Adopting of new technologies to improve customer services.

Inherent in these initiatives are sub-projects such as appropriate training, mentoring and skill transfer. Although important, the scope of these sub-projects is usually limited by finances, which eventually amounts to inadequacy of their implementation.

Further to this, many utilities are operating at a loss, causing them to offer less competitive salaries. New challenges are rare; tasks are mostly routine and repetitive, causing boredom. Government-owned utilities have strong political influence, which meshes badly with professionalism, deterring professionals. There are many potential solutions, such as: Utility Sector: improve salaries, invest in technologies and use internal expertise to solve challenges.

Private Companies: attract and retain the younger generation through balanced workloads and competitive salaries/incentives. Academia: partner with utilities for skill transfer and work together on curriculums to include programmes that focus on utilities’ challenges. Government: regulate sustainable working environment for skilled resources, including salaries and benefits, career development and skill transfer.

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