Solar PV technical and vocational training in Africa: best practices from the field

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With a rapidly growing population, half of whom are under 20 years old, the economic future of Africa demands increasingly more energy.

While 43% of Africans still lack access to electricity, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, the continent is home to 60% of the best solar resources globally but only 1% of installed capacity. In this sense, renewable energy technologies are the milestone to increasing energy access in urban, peri-urban and rural areas, where mini-grids and stand-alone systems represent viable solutions.

Training and capacity-building, then, become fundamental to effectively support the deployment of such technologies, which means investing in young people to bridge the existing skill gaps while creating more green jobs and opportunities in the sector.

For this reason, RES4Africa Foundation, under the umbrella of the RES4Africa Academy, provides multi-level capacity-building to guarantee open access, inclusivity, youth and women empowerment, linkages with industry and the labour market, and customization to local requirements, among others. Within their dynamic set of initiatives, the Technical and Vocational School programme targets young African professionals in the renewable energy sector through hands-on training in collaboration with international and local market players, organizations and educational institutions.

Track record in solar PV mini-grid training since 2018

The Technical and Vocational School, formerly known as Micro-Grid Academy, was founded in 2018 in Kenya as a multi-stakeholder initiative to support the creation of a skilled local workforce able to deploy decentralized renewable energy solutions within and beyond the Eastern African region. Through its activities, the programme has over time delivered 31 editions, online and in-person, and trained nearly 1900 people from 49 African countries, bringing forth a positive impact not only in promoting access to energy but also youth empowerment, employability and local entrepreneurship.

Thanks to the partnership with Enel Foundation, AVSI Foundation, Strathmore University and St. Kizito Vocational Training Institute in Kenya, RES4Africa has developed a comprehensive training methodology, balancing theoretical lectures with practical demonstrations and field activities. The four modules of its standard Micro-Grid Academy curriculum also received accreditation from the National Industrial and Training Authority (NITA) in Kenya, providing students with a valuable set of technical skills in the design, construction, installation, operation and maintenance, economics, and policy and regulation of micro and mini-grids. These competencies are fundamental for a wide array of profiles and the ever-growing market needs, to the point that 42% of surveyed students affirmed to have gotten new job opportunities after training.

Upcoming events and future developments

Starting from 2023, the Technical and Vocational School has resumed in-person activities, after two years of online participation due to Covid-19. As a result, a new training cycle is meant to be concluded in 2024 in Kenya, with its third module of the Micro-Grid Academy on “Decentralized Renewable Energy System Design, Operation and Maintenance and Safety” due to be held between 19-23 February 2023. The course is open to up to 25 African junior-level professionals eager to learn more about PV systems’ project design, O&M, health and safety, in combination with a focus on the productive use of energy through site visits on community projects and other practical activities.

In parallel to the training in Kenya, RES4Africa plans to scale up the impact of its technical and vocational courses by, on the one hand, reaching out to new geographies and tailoring its curriculum accordingly; on the other hand, by extending the didactic content to include other topics, such as stand-alone modules on the productive uses or utility-scale PV projects, among other possible options.

Sign up to RES4Africa’s Newsletter to learn more about its training activities.

RES4Africa Foundation (Renewable Energy Solutions for Africa) envisions the sustainable transformation of Africa’s electricity systems to ensure reliable and affordable electricity access for all, enabling the continent to achieve its full, resilient, inclusive and sustainable development. The Foundation’s mission is to create favourable conditions for scaling up investments in clean energy technologies to accelerate the continent’s just energy transition and transformation. See more: www.res4africa.org

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