by E.Wseta

The plan going forward

Sector skills plan for energy and water sector

EWSETA has plans for skills growth in both water and energy sector for 2013

The SSP should inform research, development and innovation; the allocation of resources; the regulation and implementation of projects and programmes; and the quality assurance of providers. Data and analysis in each section of this EWSETA SSP update should therefore be read as part of a thread of argument made through the different sections. The document attempts to provide a coherent, evidence-based and stakeholder-led argument toward what is to be done around skills development in the energy and water services sector.  

A Profile of the Energy and Water Services Sector

Purpose of this section:  

•  To delineate the scope of data and analysis within the SSP

•  To sketch the core strategic challenges, parameters and dynamics in the sector

•  To make explicit the ‘impact’ required of skills development in the sector.


The EWSETA holds the mandate to build the skills for four major SIC codes:

•  The production, collection and distribution of electricity

•  The manufacture and distribution of gas and gaseous fuels through mains

•  The supply of steam and hot water

•  The collection, purification and distribution of water.

The energy and water services sector covers resource management as well as related services such as distribution. This document uses the terms ‘energy and water sector’ as well as both ‘energy sector’ and ‘water sector’ within this context, including all aspects of the SETA’s mandate. In this way it also recognises both the linkages and differences between the water and energy sectors. 

Social factors, economic growth and environmental factors such as climate change are reshaping the global and domestic landscape significantly. The Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs) are a primary focus of developments in both energy and water currently. 

Three SIPs provide the strategic framework for addressing energy, and recently another has been added for water:

•  SIP8 aims to support sustainable green energy initiatives nationally, through a diverse range of energy options.

•  SIP9 aims to accelerate the construction of new energy generation capacity to meet economic growth objectives. 

•  SIP10 aims to expand the energy transmission and distribution network, to address historical imbalances and provide energy for all.  

At the time of this SSP being completed, a new SIP focusing on addressing the water issues described in this SSP was released. The ‘impact’ required of EWSETA therefore integrates the Ministerial Outcome 5 with the scope and purpose of the sector, and may be formulated as:

The skilled and capable workforce required to sustainably manage and deliver the energy and water resources needed for the growth and development of South Africa and its people. 

Demand for Skills in the Energy and Water Sector: 

Purpose of this section:

•  To map the main drivers of skills in the

•  To identify the growth demand and replacement demand for labour and skills

•  To identify the categories of critical skills development required.

The EWSETA used a variety of data sets and methodologies to project demand for skills in the energy and water sector. Interviews were conducted with experts, stakeholders and role-players. Relevant state policies and strategies were reviewed to identify key drivers. 

Available data sets include the Quarterly Labour Force Survey results; the Quantec data; Greenpeace studies; and other economic studies or industry reports.  

All these data sets were used in forecasting both growth demand and replacement demand. The results of the forecast were compared with the findings from WSP and ATR data. The overall findings were then discussed with stakeholders and industry focus groups, and feedback was incorporated. For the energy sector, two forecasting techniques were used. 

First, a generic forecasting model aimed to derive growth in employment from anticipated growth in output through various scenarios. The Eskom scenarios were compared to the Greenpeace scenarios, and an aggregate growth demand projection of 27 000 new jobs was adopted based on the similarities between the Eskom ‘Lion’ scenario and the Greenpeace ‘Reference’ scenario.

The aggregate forecast was then distributed across the various occupations in the sector using both major and minor occupational classifications. Many of the skills identified (drivers, secretaries or cleaners) are not scarce skills. Others are (603 civil engineers, 325 electrical engineers, 1391 electrical engineering technicians, 652 natural science technicians).  

Second, the current profile of employment in each plant type (e.g. nuclear or coal) was used to establish the numbers of skilled people required in each.  

Depending on which decisions are made regarding the roll-out of the Strategic Infrastructure Projects, these forecasts may be used to establish more specifically the numbers of skilled personnel required. Thus a nuclear plant could require 612 engineers, 369 technologists, 117 artisans.  

A coal plant could require 1052 engineers, 1 539 plant operators and controllers, (these figures would need to be adjusted in terms of factors such as projected output or capitalisation. They are also projections for a functional plant, and do not take into consideration plant construction).  

Replacement demand was estimated using the major replacement demand variables. Retirement demand was estimated at roughly 8 600 people required over the next 15 years, with a high percentage being in scarce skill occupations.  

Attrition due to migration or labour mobility was estimated at between 2470 and 3800. Mortality and morbidity estimates were suggested based on HIV prevalence and epidemiological forecasts.

Adding growth demand and replacement demand suggests that close to 50 000 new people may need to be trained for the energy sector. 

Critical skills needs in the energy sector – the ‘top-up’ training of existing employees – are driven by a variety of factors. While the specific skills identified are based on the WSP data, the most important drivers suggested by stakeholders are the following:

Poor levels of general education are a contributing factor to poor achievement both on training programmes and in the workplace.  Raising the general education levels remains a priority. 

The aging workforce presents a looming loss of crucial institutional memory and particular problem-solving abilities. Finding ways to transfer this to the younger generation is important. 

New technologies are being introduced which require continuous training. Currently, “the pace of technologisation is outstripping the pace of HRD”.

“All jobs are green jobs” and many existing staff need to be equipped with the skills to do their jobs differently.

Many existing employees have lost some of the foundational knowledge required to perform effectively in their jobs, and require refresher training. Management and leadership development will be required to improve project planning and performance management.  

Trends in sector or organisational performance signals (such as dams under threat of eutrophication, water licensing backlogs, Blue Drop scores for water quality and aging municipal infrastructure) were collated. Skills audit reports and workplace skills plans for particular components of the industry were analysed. And in-depth interviews for particular aspects of the sector were conducted to develop a better sense of the needs. The following findings were agreed:

Growth demand can only be estimated on an ongoing basis using the current profile of employment in various types of organisations. Thus DWA reported that 10 dams were in construction phase in 2011, and eight conveyancing projects were under rehabilitation. The occupational profile for a single dam construction or conveyancing rehabilitation should be adjusted for scale and life-cycle, and used to project the skills required. The sector and organisational performance signals convincingly demonstrate that the water sector is facing extremely serious challenges which potentially represent a national catastrophe.  These challenges require significantly increased funding, dramatically improved supply-side efficiencies, innovative skills development strategies and ‘whole organisation’ approaches to addressing the skills backlog. 

The last reported vacancy rates in scarce skill occupations within DWA itself include 36.4% of civil engineering technician posts, 93.6% artisan superintendants posts, 21.4% chemical and physical science technician posts, 34.4% of cartographic and surveying posts. Added to this is an aggregate staff turnover rate of 15.4%. These figures point to urgent support required for the department itself. 

Within the water resource management field, at least 31 dams (24% of national storage) have reduced water quality largely as a result of effluence; and a further 45 dams are on the brink of becoming similarly problematic. 

Limnologists – lake and reservoir management scientists – are thus greatly needed, yet not even a single provider of such training exists in the country. Laboratories have exceptionally low levels of general education. Nine percent  of laboratory staff does not have a school leavers certificate; a further 27% have only a school-leavers certificate; and only 9% hold a post-graduate qualification. 

Most of the smaller laboratories do not have a single employee with any post-graduate qualification.Thirty-eight percent of laboratories cite skills as a core challenge undermining their effective performance. 

Cross-cutting scarce and critical skills in the sector are estimated as follows:

•  There is a shortage of 3000 engineers (a 57% vacancy rate).  

•  The WSLG has proposed a target of 1400 civil engineering technologists over five years (at 280 per annum).

•  There is a need for 7200 Health and Hygiene/Environmental Health Practitioners.

•  There is an immediate need for 125 new Environmental Health Practitioners and for 150 EHPs to upgrade their skills. 

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