CityPress - - Business - YOLANDI GROE­NEWALD busi­ness@city­press.co.za

ulti­na­tion­als com­pet­ing in South Africa for lu­cra­tive con­tracts are sweet­en­ing the deal with com­pre­hen­sive tech­nol­ogy trans­fer ar­range­ments.

Tech­nol­ogy and skills trans­fer have be­come cru­cial bar­gain­ing chips for cor­po­ra­tions when com­pet­ing for gov­ern­ment ten­ders.

Now a whole gen­er­a­tion of engi­neers and sci­en­tists are ben­e­fit­ing from the in­ten­tions of in­ter­na­tional firms to show that they are se­ri­ous about trans­fer­ring skills in cru­cial in­dus­tries to the South African econ­omy.

The nu­clear agree­ment signed two weeks ago with Rus­sian nu­clear firm Rosatom is just the latest ex­am­ple.

Rus­sia of­fered 10 new schol­ar­ships for master’s de­gree pro­grammes in nu­clear tech­nol­ogy and agreed to train and de­velop 200 South African can­di­dates at Rus­sian univer­si­ties and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

Rus­sia will train five cat­e­gories of spe­cial­ists for South Africa: nu­clear power plant per­son­nel, en­gi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion per­son­nel, and spe­cial­ists for the nonen­ergy sec­tor and nu­clear in­fra­struc­ture to study at nu­clear power in­dus­try univer­si­ties.

Rus­sia is not the only coun­try of­fer­ing South Africans train­ing in the nu­clear in­dus­try as they com­pete for what will in all like­li­hood be the most ex­pen­sive pro­cure­ment pro­gramme in South Africa’s history.

The skills trans­fer agree­ments come against the back­ground of Man­power SA’s 10th an­nual Tal­ent Short­age Sur­vey, which showed that 30% of South African em­ploy­ers cited the lack of in­dus­try-spe­cific qual­i­fi­ca­tions or cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in terms of skilled trades as a chal­lenge.

Specif­i­cally, tech­nol­ogy skills were cited as in­ad­e­quate for what was needed in South Africa.

The depart­ment of energy’s nu­clear energy deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral, Ziza­mele Mbambo, said a num­ber of South Africans were now in­volved in skills de­vel­op­ment and train­ing, with dif­fer­ent ven­dors vy­ing for the nu­clear con­tract.

Ear­lier this year, South Africa sent 50 peo­ple to China for train­ing in nu­clear power-plant oper­a­tions to pre­pare for the im­mi­nent pro­cure­ment of the nu­clear build pro­gramme.

The trainees were se­lected from the “ma­jor role play­ers” in the in­dus­try and train­ing will be in the form of lec­tures and tours to some of China’s nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties, said the depart­ment.

“This train­ing op­por­tu­nity marks the first phase of a scope that aims to cover ca­pa­bil­ity and tech­nol­ogy in ar­eas of nu­clear power plant en­gi­neer­ing, pro­cure­ment, man­u­fac­tur­ing, con­struc­tion, com­mis­sion­ing, op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance, and pro­ject man­age­ment,” said the depart­ment.

South Korea also has an ex­ist­ing pro­gramme to train South African stu­dents for master’s de­grees in nu­clear en­gi­neer­ing. Three stu­dents have grad­u­ated so far.

France of­fered 14 bur­saries for young peo­ple from dis­ad­van­taged groups to study en­gi­neer­ing. South African nu­clear engi­neers will also get to work in France at the French cor­po­ra­tion, Areva.

The SA Nu­clear Energy Cor­po­ra­tion also signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with Élec­tric­ité de France, a French elec­tric util­ity com­pany that is largely owned by the French gov­ern­ment, re­gard­ing skills de­vel­op­ment. The agree­ment could re­sult in the es­tab­lish­ment of a nu­clear cam­pus in South Africa, added the depart­ment.

This week, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment agreed to help South Africa ad­vance its in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion pro­gramme by also de­liv­er­ing skills trans­fer pro­grammes.

The Chi­nese Academy of Gov­er­nance has agreed to a place­ment of South African gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and busi­ness lead­ers on a train­ing and skills de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme.

Chi­nese firm Huawei will also sup­port a five-year in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy train­ing pro­gramme for 1 000 South African stu­dents who want to pur­sue a ca­reer in tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion.

One of the most re­cent skills trans­fer pro­grammes in­volved in a sig­nif­i­cant ten­der was when engi­neers were trained by Gi­bela Rail Trans­port Con­sor­tium ear­lier this year for its R51 bil­lion, 20-year pro­ject to build and sup­ply the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of SA with 600 mod­ern pas­sen­ger trains. Gi­bela is 61% owned by French-based Al­stom. A to­tal of R797 mil­lion had been bud­geted for skills de­vel­op­ment as part of the pro­ject.

A num­ber of engi­neers, drawn from a va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries, were sent to France to train at Al­stom.

One of the engi­neers said: “I’m start­ing to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ent dy­nam­ics of dif­fer­ent trains. We will be de­sign­ing trains for South African tracks with their spe­cific gauges and curves. We are learn­ing how to de­sign from the re­quire­ments of the user – the pas­sen­ger.

“You don’t just build a train and hope the pas­sen­ger will slot in. We will be build­ing for South Africans in South Africa. And when we start build­ing trains for other African coun­tries, they will be de­signed with those peo­ple’s spe­cific needs in mind.”

Rosatom be­lieves that train­ing of the lo­cals will drive South Africa’s nu­clear fu­ture. It al­ready has a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing in place with North-West Univer­sity.

Dur­ing a visit by Rosatom to the univer­sity, nu­clear en­gi­neer­ing pro­gramme man­ager An­thonie Cil­liers said South Africa had a small but in­ter­na­tion­ally re­spected group of nu­clear sci­en­tists and en­gi­neer­ing ex­perts. But that sig­nif­i­cant col­lab­o­ra­tion with in­ter­na­tional nu­clear na­tions, in­clud­ing Rus­sia, the US, South Korea, China, France and Spain, is strength­en­ing our ex­per­tise.

“Our strong links to in­ter­na­tional cen­tres of nu­clear re­search and ex­cel­lence and our close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the In­ter­na­tional Atomic Energy Agency pro­vide a good ground­ing for young peo­ple en­ter­ing the nu­clear in­dus­try and for South African in­dus­tries,” said Cil­liers.

The first batch of fu­ture engi­neers to ben­e­fit from Rosatom’s ini­tia­tive are three stu­dents who won the Rosatom and North-West Univer­sity’s com­pe­ti­tion for nu­clear engi­neers. Stu­dents had to de­velop a plan to deal with the coun­try’s cur­rent energy deficit and the de­vel­op­ment of a fu­ture nu­clear in­dus­try.

A spokesper­son for Rosatom said the Rus­sian cor­po­ra­tion had started help­ing out part­ner coun­tries in 2010.

“The aim of the pro­ject is to help Rosatom’s part­ners to cre­ate a com­plex per­son­nel train­ing sys­tem for the coun­try’s nu­clear power in­dus­try.”

By the end of last year, there were 709 for­eign stu­dents study­ing in Rus­sian univer­si­ties from 11 coun­tries. Ac­cord­ing to the spokesper­son, more than 300 new stu­dents from 36 coun­tries were sched­uled to study in Rus­sia this year. By the end of next year, this num­ber will in­crease to 1 400 for­eign stu­dents.

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