Pretoria — Energy Deputy Minister Thembisile Majola has encouraged learners to take on careers in the energy sector.
"The energy sector is crucial to economic development and requires dynamic young people that can actively participate in enhancing innovation, technology and science in the sector," she said.
Speaking at the Learners Focus Week opening ceremony in Kimberly on Monday, Deputy Minister Majola said the programme provides learners from disadvantaged communities with knowledge on the energy sector value chain.
"The energy sector in particular has opportunities for young people with technical skills. This demand for technical skills is a global demand. Critical skills development in South Africa must be the business of all stakeholders, not government alone," she said.
The Deputy Minister said the issue of skills shortage poses a serious threat to the country's long-term economic growth potential.
With the growing energy infrastructure, skilled labour will be required to drive implementation of projects in the sector and develop the local value chain.
"This is crucial if we are to tackle unemployment systematically. I take this opportunity to encourage all learners to consider career paths in the energy sector so that we can speed up the pace of transformation. The sector requires skills such as artisans, electricians, technicians, nuclear technologist, environmentalists, researchers and scientists throughout the value chain," Deputy Minister Majola said.
She said South Africa's population is largely made up of young people, with those below the age of 35 years constituting about 66% of the total population. One of the biggest challenges facing youth is unemployment.
"South Africa is in danger of missing out on the full potential of its young people. As a country, we are not giving youth the skills they need to thrive post-school. This can be seen in the rising youth unemployment rate, and the myriad issues that disproportionately impact young people," said Deputy Minister Majola.
She urged learners gathered at the opening ceremony to use the opportunity to their advantage by studying hard and ensuring that subjects in the sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, calculus and chemistry fields are prioritised.
Learner focus week
The Deputy Minister said many learners gathered at the Focus Week come from disadvantaged communities and may not be aware of career opportunities in the energy sector.
"This programme is designed to empower learners with information that enables them to make informed choices regarding their career path. Having more young and skilled South Africans participating in the sector will ensure that the economy is stable and secure."
The Department of Energy (DoE) has offered 47 training opportunities to learners and interns during the 2015/16 financial years. Out of these 47, one was appointed internally while two obtained jobs outside the department during their time of training.
The DoE takes about 42 young people in the internship and learnership programme per year.
The Focus Week will conclude on Friday.