For any industry to be successful, it must be committed to the development of youth and initiatives they undertake which contribute to the social, economic and technological growth. The long-term success of nuclear technology requires that the industry assemble the right talent. Thus, youth leadership empowerment programmes are essential for the survival of nuclear technology in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal 9 that recognises the centrality of inclusive and sustainable industrialisation for development.
If one types the word ‘leadership’ on the internet search engine, they will find over a million results on what defines a leader and what exactly it means to be a leader. Moreover, there are many quotes and articles that explain leadership to young people and the need for governments to partner with different organisations in order to nurture leadership skills in young people. However, among others, the nuclear industry, is still facing a challenge of youth integration into key strategic leadership roles.
The industry is fortunate to have associations such as Young Generations in Nuclear (YGNs) which exist in many different continents across the globe. The main focus of YGNs is to support and nurture young people within the nuclear sector into becoming future leaders who can help countries maximise the benefits of nuclear science and technology. They are dedicated to serving as a representative and advocate of the voices and interests of youth within the nuclear sector to the relevant decision-making and affiliated organisations.
Undoubtedly, the main approach that must be used by nuclear sector in order to prepare for future challenges is engaging youth through YGNs. Big organisations in the nuclear sector are ought to work with youth because in doing so, everybody gains. In the same breath, members of YGNs should show commitment and willingness into becoming agents of positive change who are passionate about communicating the role of nuclear in the socio-economic development.
When we tailor make this conversation for a specific continent, as an African, I am cognizant of the need for faster socio-economic development of our continent and the importance of achieving the African Union’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063.
According to the World Bank, youths account for 60% of all of Africa’s unemployment. In North Africa, the youth unemployment rate is 25% but is even greater in South Africa, the Republic of the Congo, Senegal, and Botswana among others. Africa has the largest population of young people in the world, with 200 million people aged between 15 and 24.
However, a number of African governments have made some efforts to match words with action. For example, South Africa recently developed the Youth Strategy for the energy sector which specifies that youth unemployment rate in country decreased from 58.20 percent in the third quarter to 58.10 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019. Also, Ghana created a national youth service and empowerment programmes to equip college graduates with requisite skills and help them find jobs. Zambia convened the National Youth Forum which aims to provide an opportunity for the Government, stakeholders and youth to review the 2015 National Youth Policy and its Plan of Action. With all these attempts by our governments, the nuclear organisations, through YGNs should assist by constantly implementing strategies that focus on the development of young people.
YGNs have been actively championing the interests of young professionals in the nuclear sector by practically providing a pool of dedicated practitioners in the entire nuclear value chain in their respective countries. They have been ardent advocate for youth skills development, preservation and propagation of nuclear knowledge, expertise and its application.
Integration of young people into key strategic leadership roles is essential for sustainable economic development and the survival of the nuclear industry. It is important for organisations to work with YGNs to develop strategies that recommend interventions to advance youth mainstreaming, empowerment and development in the sector. When young people are trained as leaders of tomorrow and contribute to senior leadership decisions, the development and sustainability of nuclear industry is pushed forward.
Princess Mthombeni is a South African female with more than 13 years of experience in the nuclear industry where she focuses in Communication & Stakeholder Relations. She currently works at the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) as a Nuclear Stakeholder Management Advisor where one of her key performance areas is reinforcing the communication and awareness-raising initiatives to address the lack of information and knowledge that persists around nuclear energy in South Africa.
Princess has consulted and coordinated technical meetings and conferences for international organizations including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Amongst other things, she is also in charge of development and implementation of the African Young Generation in Nuclear (AYGN) communication strategy.
She graduated with Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) Honours in Marketing Management from the Graduate School of Marketing (IMM).
Writer: Princess Mthombeni, ( Head of Communication of AYGN) Editor: Priscilla Oforiwaa Designers: Zhang Chao& Zhang Jing Translation : Zhang Chao