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According to Energy Minister Jeff Radebe, the twenty-seven new renewable energy plant projects being rolled out under the Independent Power Producers (IPP) programme should result in the creation of some 61 600 jobs, mostly during the course of construction. These projects, valued at some R56-billion, include the building of new wind and solar farms in Mpumalanga – large, complex projects which will require the combined efforts of experts, artisans and both skilled and unskilled workers.

The guidelines laid out by the New Regulation Generations state that preference is given to IPP projects that possess a plant technology and location that contributes to local economic development. Therefore, IPPs are under directive to source their skills and suppliers locally, wherever possible. While an excellent and beneficial initiative, coupled with the fact that many of the skills required are required only on a temporary or project basis during the construction and setting up of each facility, this can pose a challenge for IPPs looking to get started.

Skills sourcing

Sean Momberg, Managing Director at Workforce Staffing, says that IPP Projects can benefit from consulting the expertise of Temporary Employment Service (TES) providers, who have extensive experience in catering to these needs, as well as being specialists in recruiting from local communities.

Building an alternative power plant, whether reliant on solar or wind power, is a lengthy process. A significant length of time is spent on planning and gaining sign off from investors, and various regulatory and governmental institutions. The twenty-seven projects mentioned have spent approximately two years in this sign-off period and, now that they have been approved, IPPs need to work fast to get the ball rolling. From civil work and environmental impact assessments, to mechanical, engineering, electrical and physical site building – each project requires a varied and vast number of skills.

Says Momberg, “IPP projects can take several years to complete and require a significant investment in human capital, which becomes more complex and time consuming by having to source locally. Once the main contractor is appointed, they are responsible for sourcing skilled staff and suppliers for the duration of the construction and commissioning phases. A TES provider can significantly reduce the workload, by managing all Human Resources and Industrial Relations for them.”

Running interference

TES providers go beyond assisting with providing temporary and project-based staff, says Tebogo Moalusi, National IR Director at Workforce Staffing. With unions such as NUMSA actively protesting these IPP projects, citing loss of jobs in the coal mining sector despite Minister Radebe’s assurances to the contrary, TES providers’ expertise in managing union relationships can prove a valuable aid to IPPs.

“IPP projects often arise in the likes of demarcation disputes, which is determining which bargaining council a particular site falls under,” says Moalusi. “A reputable TES provider understands the demands of local economic development, as well as relationship management with all involved entities, and works with both local employment providers, the community and unions to mitigate concerns.”

Quite often, IPP projects involve investment from international players and communication between international and local parties, as well as ensuring that the local community is best served, can provide yet another challenge. Momberg says that TES providers also assist in breaking down these communication barriers, focusing on the importance of local job creation while ensuring that standards are maintained according to international requirements.

“TES providers carefully assess local catchment areas keeping fair processes in mind. This takes procurement into account and sourcing of local equipment, accommodation, transport and catering is all considered,” says Momberg.

Frequently with international parties, payment terms are set at 90 days from invoice. Momberg stresses that this is not sustainable in local environments, where suppliers and staff simply don’t have the financial capacity to work within those terms. A reputable TES provider has the financial wherewithal to ensure that payment demands are met on weekly or monthly bases, based on local requirements.

Addressing job loss concerns

Minister Radebe highlighted that job losses due to coal mine closures were unrelated to the introduction of IPPs yet concerns around unemployment are still rampant. TES providers help IPPs to address these concerns, keeping job losses to a minimum even after the project is completed.

Moalusi says that creating sustainable local employment is a measurable requirement for IPPs. Once a project is completed, fewer staff are required. TES providers can assist with not only helping temporary project workers find employment post-project, but also with equipping them with recognised skills to do so.

“Skill transfer is one of the biggest ways that IPPs can ensure sustainable employment after a project is completed. TES providers enable short course and onsite training to upskill workers, as well as assisting with skills transfer between artisans and contractors, and workers. Although these projects aren’t typically long enough to allow for full three-year type accreditations, following the project, a worker should be able to possess a marketable skill that they can add to their CV for future employment opportunities,” explains Moalusi.

Momberg adds that TES providers also ensure that there is a focus on entrepreneurial development after the project is completed. “The plant still requires specialised skills for maintenance once up and running. Assisted partnerships and mentorships during the project allow for local start-ups to benefit from skilled workers, becoming preferred and experienced local providers to the site.”

A focused approach

TES providers are employment-driven, which enables them to assist IPPs to comply with their economic development requirements, so they can focus on rolling out their projects. Momberg points out that IPPs should include their TES provider in discussion from start to project completion to ensure that all local job creation parameters are met, and that the necessary training facilities are created both during and after the project.

“A TES provider’s focus remain employment. Although the IPP’s goal is to complete their project on time and within budget, TES providers have the experience and knowledge to provide employment and procurement solutions that underpin the IPPs objectives, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free project roll out,” concludes Momberg.

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