June is a month in which we commemorate our youth. We remember the struggle and the important role they played in the achievement of our freedom and our democracy.
I believe that it is better to commemorate though active action rather than just through remembrance, as action leads to reaction, which leads to change.
We need action, and we need it now, as there are harsh realities that we face.
According to StatsSA, "Young men and women today face increasing uncertainty in their hopes of undergoing a satisfactory entry to the labour market, and this uncertainty and disillusionment can, in turn, have damaging effects on individuals, communities, economies and society at large. Unemployed or underemployed youth are less able to contribute effectively to national development and have fewer opportunities to exercise their rights as citizens. They have less to spend as consumers, less to invest as savers and often have no 'voice' to bring about change in their lives and communities".
The report, furthermore, states that the unemployment rate among the youth is more than twice that of adults each year, while the absorption rate for the youth is substantially lower than that of adults. As a result of the global recession, the unemployment rate among the youth rose from 32.7% in 2008 to 36.9% in 2015.
Through #Rhodesmustfall and #Feesmustfall, the youth of today have found a voice and are demanding fair opportunities to enable them to contribute to the growth and prosperity of our nation.
Today, I am proud of the efforts that Government has made, particularly Eskom, in its commitment to youth development and empowerment.
South Africa needs great engineers and we need to find them and to nurture them. An engineering degree can eliminate poverty and is a catalyst to the growth of a nation.
I am told that, in 2013, it was the vision of the Eskom Board, who saw a need for positive action and for transformation in the nuclear profession. Nuclear Project 100 was one of the levers to catapult change in this environment.
In addition to transformation, the nuclear renaissance in Asian and Middle Eastern countries is attracting nuclear skills from across the globe, with countries competing for skills in this industry.
In line with this vision and management commitment, 100 artisans are being trained as future nuclear operators. This programme allows our youth to train in a field not typically common in the engineering profession in South Africa. It influences us to ramp up our training programmes and to build up the operator pipeline, which is vital to the running of a nuclear programme.
Eskom's Nuclear Project 100 will provide a platform for developing a robust nuclear operator pipeline for South Africa. The programme, spanning five years, aims to build a path to ensure that there are sufficient local nuclear resources to service the country's present and future nuclear needs. After the five-year period, trainees will qualify as nuclear plant operators or will enter related career equivalents.
What is inspiring is that approximately 95% of students are 35 years and younger, and about 40% are black females from various parts of the country.
The training is conducted in three waves. Each focuses on a non-licensed training programme and exposure to operating areas such as fire risk management, maintenance, inspection and testing, and chemical plant operations.
I was pleased to learn that Koeberg nuclear plant is one of the few nuclear power stations outside of the United States of America whose training programme is accredited with the National Academy of Nuclear Training, ensuring that our training is both current and world class.
Koeberg also offers various other training programmes, from maintenance training to licensed nuclear plant operator training. With two full-scale control room simulators, Koeberg is geared to train reactor operators in this field. An in-house chemistry plant operator and radiation protection monitor training programme is also unique to Koeberg.
Eskom has developed internationally acknowledged nuclear leadership development programmes for managers and supervisors and has undertaken training both locally and internationally for nuclear operators.
Universities also play their part in addressing gaps in the nuclear industry, particularly North-West University in Potchefstroom, which offers postgraduate studies in nuclear engineering. Eskom is in partnership with local universities who have developed two unique master's programmes, set up initially for Eskom staff, at the University of Cape Town (Master's in Nuclear Engineering) and Wits University (Master's in Nuclear Technology Leadership). These courses are now also being taken up by learners outside of Eskom.
In addition, Eskom is collaborating with industry partners such as NECSA on nuclear-industry-offered training and development opportunities.
General training offered by Eskom includes the following:
To the 100 artisans, I congratulate you on your achievement. You represent the youth of today, but, more so, you represent our future. We have awarded you an opportunity to stand out and make a difference. Teach others who come after you, for only through sharing can we empower one another.
South Africa and Africa are dependent on your success. Make us proud!
For enquiries contact Colin Cruywagen on 082 3779916
Issued by: Ministry of Public Enterprises
9 June 2016