Gigaba talks skills

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To ramp up the necessary skills needed to carry out South Africa’s current infrastructure build programme, Eskom is training 5283 learners, 80% (or 4240) of whom are studying in the engineering and technical fields, Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba says.

In reply to a parliamentary question raised in the National Assembly on the number of artisans being trained for the infrastructure build programme, Gigaba said Eskom’s build programme alone, over the next five years, would on average require 160 scientists, 2145 engineers and 2951 artisans per year, the state BuaNews reports.

He said Eskom had an additional 5000 learners, 2500 of whom are unemployed matriculants in trades training and 2500 are unemployed graduates in internships. On the other hand, Transnet is aiming to train 427 engineers and 1412 artisans this year and 60 engineers and 500 artisans a year between 2012 and 2016, said Gigaba. These figures exclude supplier development training figures.

Transnet spends R144 million a year on engineering bursaries and a further R73 million on artisan training. The transport parastatal currently places all of its engineering bursars in positions across the parastatal and 80 percent of the qualified artisans exiting in its programme. “Although opportunities exist to grow the intake of artisans, this will require additional funding to upgrade facilities and ensure adequate resources,” said Gigaba, adding that preliminary estimates indicate that R212 million is needed to fund a further 1000 trainees and R325 million for an additional 2000 trainees for the transport parastatal.

He said the Department of Public Enterprises and the Department of Higher Education and Training are together looking at ways to fund the additional trainees, as the National Skills Fund currently does not fund infrastructure investment. Turning to Eskom, Gigaba said the recently launched Eskom Academy of Learning would, together with partnerships with tertiary institutions and supplier networks, be used to train new recruits.

The academy is focusing primarily on developing engineers, technologists, technicians and artisans and has faculties in engineering, artisan, services, project management, leadership and finance. “In addition, commercial contracts have been entered into with suppliers on Eskom’s build programme with clauses that deal with knowledge transfer and training,” said Gigaba, adding that learners in the supplier network are contracted by the contracting company, while Eskom is the primary employer in the learner pipeline.

The state electricity utility has entered into a joint project with other state-owned enterprises to train an additional 1500 trade persons per year by making use of under utilised training facilities in the sector. He said during the 2009/10 financial year, Eskom had 5225 learners, of which 3997 were enrolled in the area of engineering or technical practices – with the remainder enrolled in areas such as commerce, finance, legal and human resources. In all, 4735 (about 91%) learners are black – roughly in line with the general demographic make up of South Africa.

Eskom’s aim is to constantly ensure that it has at least 2500 artisan learners, which are replaced when the learners qualify every year (usually about 1200 qualify every year). On top of this, Gigaba said to retain artisans and engineers, Eskom pays above market related salaries and has flexible benefits that meet the needs of employees.

Eskom also provides ongoing training to ensure that its professionals stay up to date with new technologies and processes, while talent boards are in place in each Eskom division to ensure that high potential is strategically discussed and that succession planning is followed through. Gigaba said Eskom had also set limits to manage external losses, such that the staff turnover over the last year has been 3.8 percent, which he pointed out is low according to industry norms.



In reply to another parliamentary question on how many artisans, technicians and engineers had retired in the last three years, he said that since 2008 to date, 295 artisans, 342 technicians and 455 engineers had retired, BuaNews said.