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Exploring renewable energy career paths for youth in South Africa

By Pierre Bekker, Manager at Quyn International Recruitment & Staffing Solutions

by Tia

A remarkable expansion is underway in South Africa’s energy sector. The country is increasingly embracing renewable energy sources, spurred by pragmatic considerations such as sustainability, economic competitiveness, and environmental responsibility. As South Africa strives to address global challenges like climate change and energy security, the renewable energy sector is brimming with exciting career paths for the next generation. Here, Temporary Employment Services (TES) providers can play a vital role in bridging the gap between South Africa’s young workforce and the renewable energy sector’s growing labour needs. By facilitating placements and participating in skills development partnerships with industry players, TES providers can empower young people to enter this rapidly growing industry.

The energy crisis – a catalyst for change
The urgency behind our transition to renewable energy is heightened by an ongoing energy crisis, which is characterised by load shedding – deliberate, rolling power cuts implemented to manage electricity demand. This crisis highlights the need for a more sustainable, secure energy system, and renewable energy sources like solar and wind offer a viable solution that harnesses clean and abundant natural resources to power the nation.

The promise of renewable energy for employment in South Africa
Given that it is predicted that by 2029 at least 19.28% of all energy used will be from renewable sources, it is clear that this is an industry that will keep growing, with the private sector actively leading the expansion. The surge in adoption indicates a shift towards sustainable practices and signifies a promising future for renewable energy in our country. Positively, this growth in the renewable energy sector offers significant career prospects for the youth. This is particularly important in light of data released by Statistics South Africa in May 2023 showing that the total number of unemployed youth aged 15-34 years stands at a staggering 4.9 million, which is 46.5% of the country’s employable population.

With roles spanning across various disciplines such as engineering, project management, research and development, and policy advocacy, young individuals will be able to contribute to the design, installation, and maintenance of renewable energy systems, lead project initiatives, drive innovation, influence policy decisions, and even venture into entrepreneurship. This presents a dynamic and promising field for career growth and development, the ideal conduit for young people to actively shape a sustainable future for the nation.

A growing industry for a growing workforce
The opportunities presented by renewable energy extend beyond mere employment. For unskilled workers, it offers a gateway to gainful employment and provides valuable skills development opportunities. Construction projects associated with renewable energy infrastructure serve as learning platforms, imparting essential skills such as workplace safety practices, technical skills, and project management expertise. The decentralised nature of renewable energy projects means that opportunities are not limited to urban centres but extend to rural areas, which contributes to inclusive economic growth and development across the country.

Career possibilities aplenty in renewable energy
In terms of specific roles in high demand within the renewable energy industry, there is a spectrum of avenues available to individuals with varying skill levels. From health and safety personnel to engineers and semi-skilled and skilled electricians, as well as civil works professionals, and project managers, the sector offers an unimaginable array of career paths. As the industry matures, there will be a growing need for workers in operations and maintenance roles, providing long-term employment prospects for young individuals that gain the necessary specialised skills.

Embracing renewable energy career paths offers both personal and professional growth opportunities for young South Africans. The sector’s long-term stability ensures consistent employment opportunities, with certain renewable energy projects likely to span several decades. Being part of a flourishing industry presents a chance to be at the forefront of innovation and development, with ample room for career advancement and skill enhancement. Contributing to renewable energy initiatives also allows individuals to make a tangible impact on mitigating climate change and fostering a more sustainable future for generations to come – a factor that has proven to be important with the upcoming Gen Z workforce. 

Shaping the workforce of the future
As an alternative to traditional career pathways, Temporary Employment Services (TES) providers and outsourcing firms can play a crucial role in facilitating entry into the renewable energy sector for the younger workforce. TES providers specialise in sourcing, recruiting, and managing temporary or contract workers, offering flexibility and scalability to businesses in need of labour. By partnering with TES providers, the sector can access a pool of talented individuals with diverse skill sets, bridging any skill gaps and accelerating project timelines. TES arrangements give individuals the chance to gain valuable hands-on experience in the industry, building their resumes and enhancing their employability in the long term.

In this way, TES providers can serve as a strategic resource for both employers and young professionals looking to embark on a career in renewable energy and, in the long run, the transition to renewable energy provides the ideal opportunity for our youth to contribute meaningfully to the country’s sustainable development. As the sector continues to grow and evolve, embarking on renewable energy career paths offers young individuals the chance to be part of a transformative journey towards a greener, more prosperous future.

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