Eskom CEO Brian Dames says the utility has taken on board criticism over the fact that it is continuing to employ foreign specialist welders at its power station projects and has established an internal welding school to redress the situation.
Speaking at a South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry convention on Friday, Dames said Eskom had employed expatriate welders at Medupi and Kusile, owing to the fact that there was a local dearth of such high-level welding skills.
But the issue had been raised as a concern and was even a source of labour unrest on the Medupi site in 2011, when some contractor employees expressed dissatisfaction about the fact that Thai nationals were being employed ahead of South Africans as welders, riggers and pipe fitters.
The State-owned utility had since established a school to train high-quality welders internally as part of a larger thrust to train beyond it needs in response to South Africa’s skills shortages.
To date, Eskom has taken on 12 000 learner artisans, technicians and engineers and had invested R1.4-billion, or 6% of its pay-roll, on training.
It had also established a power plant engineering institute to collaborate with South African universities in a bid to ensure that there was a pipeline of engineers with specialist power-sector expertise.
The Medupi project alone, Dames said, was absorbing the equivalent of 43% of the country’s yearly engineering graduates and 48% of the artisans produced in the country in a year.