he renewable energy rush is upon us – but are IPPs controlling the workforce?


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By Wayne Alcock, MD at Quyn International Outsourcing

As the energy crisis continues and load shedding intensifies, South Africa desperately awaits the completion of projects that will add emergency generation capacity. However, delays created by a legal challenge to the emergency power program delayed the delivery of 2,000 megawatts of electricity to the national grid by several months. Given the urgency of the situation, we cannot afford any further delays. With the Renewable Power Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP) bidding window 5 opening soon, many projects will all be looking to hire local resources. To carefully balance the urgent need to relieve pressure on the national power grid, with an increased demand for skilled resources to complete, run and maintain emergency and alternative generation capacity projects, labor brokers can play a decisive role.

Timing is critical

As emergency production projects scramble to get back on track and REIPPPP Bidding Window 5 begins, project timelines will overlap and there will be a huge increase in skill requirements and in labor for renewable energy projects. Local skills in the rural communities where these projects are based will be in high demand, as well as needed niche skills, such as electrical and mechanical engineers. Recruiting the right skills locally and onboarding the required workforce for every phase of every project is time-consuming and expensive, especially from a payroll, HR and legal perspective. The independent power producers involved will have little room for error and will struggle to meet project deadlines. To speed up the deadlines, it will be necessary to bring out the big guns. Outsourcing the labor component of these projects will be the most cost effective and fastest way to ensure that these projects are completed without further undue delay.

Skills and Labor Demands

As with any new project, it will be difficult for IPPs to assemble the necessary teams. In terms of the skills required to work on renewable energy plants, generally speaking, there will be a massive need for skills in management, electrical and structural engineering, especially electrical and mechanical engineering. Auxiliary skills that will be required include planners, quantity surveyors, as well as health and safety officers to ensure that operations comply with applicable regulations. The most in-demand skills will include electricians, especially those with experience working on solar PV farms.

Challenges for Independent Power Producers

Finding the necessary skills will be difficult for IPPs, given the current skills shortage in South Africa. Recruitment is not the core business of IPPs and the work is likely to take place in remote areas. On the other hand, labor brokers have networks in all industries across the country, which will make it easier to find the labor needed for these projects. The use of labor brokers also provides the flexibility to match qualified people to fixed-term projects and will allow the same skills to be applied where they are needed. Building on the experience already gained from previous tenders and working on other private alternative energy generation projects, labor brokers in this sector have put in place a system that works quickly. and favorably, especially in remote areas where local cooperation is required. Labor brokers are also experienced in community engagement and can easily manage recruiting and onboarding a sufficient workforce, even when the workforce numbers in the thousands.

Put off the headache

In addition to handling all of the time-consuming aspects of recruiting, labor brokers will also make quick work of legal and payroll processes, as well as any required induction, training, or medical assessments. Using a labor broker also ensures uniform working conditions – everyone gets paid at the same time and is subject to the same disciplinary rules and procedures. Ultimately, when the success of every project depends on time and skill, labor brokers are the most effective mechanism for finding the right people for large, complex engineering and construction projects.


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