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Training for the renewable energy skills demand in Solar Photovoltaic sector

Photovoltaic Systems and renewable energy technologies have a special meaning for South Africa as the country tries to keep the lights on.

The country’s sustainable development vision is outlined in the National Framework for Sustainable Development (2008) as “South Africa aspires to be a sustainable, economically prosperous and self-reliant nation-state that safeguards its democracy by meeting the fundamental human needs of its people, by managing its limited ecological resources responsibly for current and future generations, and by advancing efficient and effective integrated planning and governance through national, regional and global collaboration”.

“The imperative for all countries is to transition from outdated fossil fuel power generation systems to sustainable green energy solutions is urgent, to reverse the impact of climate change. Yet research shows that green jobs are few and far between, and young people who are on the cusp of entering the labour market don’t feel they have been prepared to apply for them. Young people who had technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in addition to school or higher education felt more prepared to participate in the green economy than those without experience in TVET. Thirty-one percent of respondents with this combination of education reported feeling completely prepared, compared to 22 percent who had only school or higher education.”

While policies are in place supporting green economy efforts, measurable implementation methods are still limiting.

Creating more pathways to green jobs includes green skills development throughout the education systems and providing young people with career guidance into green jobs and more importantly training opportunities.

False Bay TVET College entered into a partnership agreement with the Manufacturing, Engineering, and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority merSETA in 2019 to equip the College with the necessary infrastructure and teaching expertise for the emerging and needed Solar Photovoltaic sector.

A photovoltaic (PV) system is composed of one or more solar panels combined with an inverter and other electrical and mechanical hardware that use energy from the Sun to generate electricity.

As part of the collaboration, with merSETA and the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (SARETEC), training in the newly accredited Solar PV installer and Solar PV repairs will be rolled out at the Westlake Campus of False Bay TVET College.

Since March 2019, two False Bay TVET College candidates have completed the following facilitator training and are in the process of completing the ARPL process to qualify as electricians:

  • National Higher Diploma in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering
  • National Advanced Diploma in Technical Education
  • Certificate in Solar PV installations and repairs.

As part of the qualification development, staff earmarked to pioneer the PV programs attended the international Solar Conference in Abu Dhabi, from 16 to 18 January 2023. The international exposure was funded by merSETA, and the South African delegation was led by the SARETEC team.

During this international visit, to the Solar Expo & Forum in Abu Dhabi, a leading solar marketplace, the world’s leading engineering companies, technology providers and pioneering financiers together with the region’s top utilities, oil & gas, industry buyers, and government showcased new systems and developments in the renewable energy space.

It was an opportunity to interact with global suppliers in solar, renewable energy, water efficiency, sustainable waste management, smart cities, and climate change. Upon their return, Mr Akhona Winisi and Mr Sinethemba Mpati said that they were inspired by the next generation of innovators who are developing out-of-box solutions for complex challenges in the expansion of green energy technology.

While the country and economy continue to invest in renewable energy solutions and strive for liberalisation from the outdated fossil fuel power generation systems, the College will continue to ensure the provision of relevant skills development and training.

Mr Akhona Winisi, upon his return, was invited as a special guest by Premier Alan Winde to the State of the Province Address (SOPA), delivered at the Western Cape Provincial Parliament Building in Cape Town.

In his address, the Premier said, “It is my pleasure to welcome Akhona Winisi as one of my special guests here today. Akhona lectures at False Bay College In Westlake here in Cape Town, preparing a generation of young people to become “solar heroes”. Last year I along with Western Cape Finance and Economic Opportunities Minister Mireille Wenger helped launch the exciting new Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) qualification through the Premier’s Council on Skills. The qualification – being rolled out at several TVET Colleges in the province – will become critical as we bolster our drive toward energy resilience by harnessing the massive and growing solar PV market. Keep up the good work, Akhona. We need as many solar PV specialists as we can train to help us end our reliance on coal.”

Green Economy for Sustainable Development | Department of Environmental Affairs (dffe.gov.za)

Young people unprepared for jobs in the “green economy” – global survey | Plan International (plan-international.org)

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