Amid the youth unemployment rate rising to 58.1% in the fourth quarter of last year, energy company Enel Green Power South Africa (EGP RSA) has reaffirmed its commitment to youth employment and training.
“South Africa’s people must now contend with a pandemic that has dealt a massive blow to the South African economy, with particularly harsh repercussions for young people trying to gain a foothold in the world of work.
“There are, however, some good news stories of businesses putting measures into place to hold onto their employees and continue training and nurturing young people to fulfil specific roles in their operations,” EGP RSA states.
One of these businesses is EGP RSA, where the average age of employees is 37 years and 64% of the workforce is made up of people who are under 35 years old.
In addition, more than 50% of leadership roles are filled by women and 6% of senior management is made up of youth.
EGP RSA head of people and organisation Abigail Fidelis notes that young people are worst affected by unemployment because it is difficult for them to gain workplace skills and experience.
Many organisations expect new employees to hit the ground running, but if job applicants have never been given the opportunity to get some form of experience, they are often overlooked.
“At EGP RSA we hire people at a professional level, but we also are highly cognisant of the need to encourage young people – with a particular focus on women – to enter the sustainable energy sector and gain the necessary skills to make meaningful contributions in the workplace,” she explains.
The company introduced an internship programme three years ago after partnering with the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Witwatersrand’s engineering departments to get a view on how many young people were interested in getting into the renewable energy sector.
However, EGP RSA does not only enlist civil and electrical engineering students for the internship programme, it also recruits young people who do not have qualifications from tertiary institutions to impart the necessary skills to run local control rooms.
To date, seven interns have been absorbed by EGP RSA to run local control rooms.
Fidelis says it is understandable that some companies may not always have the budget to equip young people with the necessary skills and experience to make them work-ready, but it remains their responsibility to do so as much as they can with the resources they have.
“In a fast-changing industry such as the renewable energy sector, young people are particularly valuable because of their ability to think outside of the box and adapt quickly. With the onset of the pandemic lockdown, our employees – especially the youth – made the shift to working remotely swiftly and seamlessly.
“Importantly, it is helpful to enlist young people to come up with ideas around green energy and the preservation of resources for the next generation. After all, their children will be the next generation and who better to ensure they have the resources they need to thrive?”
A global Enel initiative that has been embraced by EGP RSA is the group’s four schools of learning, that is, business development, operations and management, commissioning and engineering and construction.
Enel Global has partnered with different universities in Italy to develop a globally accredited programme for the advancement of its employees.
“The first programme we participated in was the School of Business Development; about six of our South African employees now have master’s degrees in business development through an accredited university in Italy,” highlights Fidelis.
In June, two of EGP RSA's employees graduated from the same programme, which comprises a combination of face-to-face learning in Italy and online learning and project work back in South Africa.
Another two employees, who recently graduated from the School of Commissioning, fall into the under-35-year age group.
A graduate from the School of Business, Trenisha Singh, was enlisted at the school after being employed in the role of business developer at EGP RSA for more than six months. On the programme, she was able to enhance her skills set and glean information and learnings from Enel business development professionals from around the world.
Today, Singh’s job entails finding, analysing and realising the potential of renewable energy opportunities and ensuring the successful development of projects. Building relationships with a variety of stakeholders – from landowners and authorities, to various other players in the renewable sector – forms an important part of her role.
Finally, EGP RSA’s mentorship programme – From Leader to Coach – is designed for the company’s middle to senior management level employees, who attend leadership workshops and receive individual coaching sessions.
The programme, which also focuses on nurturing emotional intelligence, allows leaders to change their mindset from traditional types of leadership thinking to embracing a coaching style of management.
The focus is for leaders to get their team members to solve problems for themselves, rather than doing it on their behalf.
“The internship contract is one year so we like to pride ourselves that we train them enough to be able to absorb them and the ones we didn’t absorb got jobs elsewhere, so we still prepared them for the world of work.
“We believe these initiatives and an open communication environment have made EGP RSA a desirable place to work. In addition to the sector we operate in, our focus on youth and women has set us apart from our competitors, something we are particularly proud of,” concludes Fidelis