THE POWER OF THE YOUTH
June is celebrated as Youth Month in South Africa, with a specific focus on 16 June, known as Youth Day. Youth Month pays tribute to the school pupils who lost their lives during the 16 June 1976 uprising in Soweto. Zoliswa Tshetshe, Head of HR & Organisation: Sub-Saharan Africa for Enel Green Power reflects on what Youth Month means.
The most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. It is important, through mindfulness, to ask yourself who you are and what your power is. Every day you live is a representation of your life. Make the best of it. As I prepare for my day I ask myself the question: “What can I do today, with what I have, that will move me in the direction of my vision?” This way of thinking is inspired by those who came before me.
On 16 June 1976, more than 15 000 students gathered at Orlando West Secondary School with the intention of participating in a peaceful march to the nearby Orlando Stadium. The demonstration was planned to protest the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction at schools. The police and armed forces responded violently to the peaceful protest, killing 12-year-old Hector Pieterson and 175 others.
My husband was among the marching schoolchildren that day. For me, Youth Day reflects the burning desire of the 1976 youth to change their circumstances. Together they showed tremendous determination and demonstrated how the youth can change history. The June 16 participants were tired of the status quo. They understood the value of taking the next step to make things happen. They tapped into their inner power and made a lasting change in South Africa. They had a clear vision and would allow nothing to stop them from realising it.
As an organisation, we feel it is vital to keep the spirit of the youth of 1976 alive. Our culture at Enel Green Power South Africa (EGP RSA) is geared to recognising the contributions made by the youth – who make up 64 percent of our employees – because it is defined by the youth who contribute to and drive our business in South Africa.
From the very moment EGP RSA opened an office in South Africa, we looked at the socio- and macro-economic environment in South African to consider where we could add value to the country. Youth employment was one of the challenges we identified as having an opportunity to address. This decision also dovetailed with the global
Enel Group philosophy of creating shared value – the premise that the competitiveness and sustainability of a company and the wellbeing of communities in which it operates are mutually dependent. We had an opportunity
to create shared value in that, while we offer employment opportunities to young people, we also benefit from a youthful workforce that is open to a culture of innovation and doing things differently.
The renewable energy industry is still in its youth phase in South Africa. And it is common knowledge that new developments are embraced and applied more easily by the younger generation. Young people shape the future. The same spirit that led the youth of 1976 to change the South African political landscape is transforming the energy industry into a space where renewable energy is the norm rather than exception.
To a large degree this reflects the social responsibility the youth of today have towards the environment. They view renewables in a positive light because they are concerned about the future and feel the nation has a duty to generate power from sources that do not cause harm to the environment and
future generations. As the saying goes: “We have not inherited this earth from our parents to do with it what we will. We have borrowed it from our children and we must be careful to use it in their interests as well as our own.” Mother Nature has given us sources of power to solve some of our world’s challenges. Renewable energy is the responsible mechanism to produce power and is aligned to the interests of today’s youth.
EGP RSA encourages more South African youth to pursue a career in renewables. We offer bursaries for students to further their studies towards qualifications aligned with the renewable energy industry and communicate with communities about opportunities at EGP RSA through the Project Steering Committees at our seven renewable power plants.
The secret to the success of our employees, and for those who wish to work at EGP RSA, is to understand the already tested and proven Enel way of doing things. This requires an open attitude to learning and an innovative, “can do” attitude. This practice naturally attracts younger people and we believe the renewable energy
sector is fertile ground for them.