Cape Town, South Africa, August 2023

As the demand for new power generation grows, so does the demand for qualified and skilled talent in the country’s renewable energy sector, and like its international counterparts, it needs a rising pool of qualified candidates to draw from. South Africa’s shortfall has been exacerbated by the sector’s seven year hiatus and subsequent failed procurement rounds, resulting in the industry losing hundreds of skilled people, including a large cohort of engineers, wind turbine technicians and general service personnel, who sought employment on the global market.

The industry is playing catch-up and working hard to attract talent back in order to rebuild the dwindling talent pool, warns one of the country’s Original Equipment Manufacturers, Nordex Energy South Africa, citing the direct effects on the manufacturing and services sector. So, whilst there is a keen focus on the challenges resulting from the constrained national power grid, it is not the only stumbling block to unlocking the economic power of the renewable energy industry, warn industry leaders.

“We currently have a shortfall of trained and experienced wind technicians in the country, having lost much of our skilled capacity to advanced international markets. This is a direct result of the interrupted procurement that has plagued the sector since 2014. We stress that consistency, policy and market certainty are the bedrocks of unlocking the renewable energy sector’s enormous employment and investment potential,” said Zelrese Brair, Head of People & Culture at Nordex Energy South Africa.

If the sector is to shift from its current survival mode, policy certainty and a robust skills base geared towards services and renewable energy manufacturing is necessary, which will enable the sector to become dynamic and competitive.

The draft sector masterplan (SAREM) has identified nine key working areas that need support to create an enabling environment for the renewable energy value chain, specifically identifying skills.

The foundation of a clean energy workforce is rooted in STEM education so we need to look at government stakeholders to drive school and tertiary education, across all grade levels.

“The development and enhancement of STEM education and the addition of more training facilities will unlock greater job potential for our country in the renewable sector in the same way that it will provide a workforce fit for the industry. To this end, we need to prepare students for careers in renewable energy, and in order to do this educators must emphasize the importance of STEM learning,” added Brair.

The wind industry has a diverse skills requirement, and needs a broad talent pool that focuses on Engineering (Electrical, Mechanical, Industrial, Civil); Natural Sciences and Mathematics (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Statistics and Environmental Sciences); Administration and Management (Accounting, Business Administration, Finance, Procurement, Human Resource Management); Social Sciences/Humanities (Economics, Gender, International Relations, Communication, Population Studies, Law), in addition to other skills such as Computer Science, Management Information Systems and Software Engineering.