GFSE Side Event at VEF 2021: Green Skills for the Youth
The side event Green Skills for the Youth took place virtually on 5 July (15:30-16:30) at the Vienna Energy Forum. It brought together representatives from the renewable energy sector to share best practices, discuss challenges and bottlenecks, and exchange experiences on green skills strategies that are needed to scale up solar energy and other renewables. The agenda can be found here.
The event took off with a short introduction to the subject by Irene Giner-Reichl, president of GFSE and president of GWNET, who pointed out to the challenges faced by numerous countries to find qualified staff for the energy transition towards a full renewable energy system. After the introduction, the SOLTRAIN Initiative was presented by Werner Weiss (AEE Intec). SOLTRAIN (Southern African Solar Thermal Training & Demonstration Initiative) is a regional initiative on capacity building & demonstration of solar thermal systems in the SADC region, supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). SOLTRAIN provides specialized solar thermal courses and trainings and offers a dual training for company staff. SOLTRAIN has trained about 3400 people between 2009 and 2020 in six countries. It also addresses the areas of awareness raising, R&D, financial incentives and regulations in a comprehensive concept.
During the discussion, Mr. Weiss (AEE Intec) emphasized the need to bring together university graduates and installers to allow them learning from each other. He also emphasized the importance of digital technologies for education and training and the lessons learning during the pandemic to make virtual training more effective. Virtual training represents a good way of reaching larger segments of trainees and those who cannot afford to travel long distances to attend in-person training, thereby reducing the costs and making knowledge available to a broader audience.
Thereafter, the panellists lively discussed elements of training strategies. Mr Christian Holter (SOLID), for example, emphasized the need to train young women in solar thermal energy and raise their interest in technical professions. In addition, the panelists pointed out to the usefulness of dual training that allows trainees to receive education at vocational facilities and at the same time gain hands-on experience on the job.
Michael Müllneritsch (ARACUBA) stated the importance of providing training not only on technical skills but also on business models development, management, market assessment and marketing strategies for renewable energy technologies. He also highlighted the importance of digital tools for micro-learning, in order to provide small portions of knowledge to allow learners study at their own pace.
Marcel Huber (Syncraft) stated that STEM disciplines should be promoted equally to young boys and girls. At small age, children do not show any bias towards a particular profession and this opportunity should be tapped. It is thus very important to address them with the right tools to arise their interest in science and technology in general and, in particular, in renewable energy and energy efficiency. He also sees an important role for university in facilitating practical hands-on experience in real-life environments for students.
Several panelists, among others Ms. Giner-Reichl stressed the importance of women-led initiatives and female role models to promote training for women in the renewables sector and allow them to become technical experts and managers.
In conclusion, all panellists agreed that the young generation requires solid training in renewable energy to raise to the challenge of driving the energy system towards net zero GHG emissions. Training strategies must make use of new, innovative concepts to make the most of available time and resources, combining on-the-job training with vocational education and profiting from digital tools and cooperation. Training has to be embedded in a comprehensive concept encompassing supporting policies, R&D, business models, awareness raising and demonstration.
Educational approaches have to start early raising awareness and interest of young women and men on renewable energy. Ideally, pupils at school should be informed about the possibilities of renewable energy and possible career paths.
Please find a link to the GFSE Poliy Brief "The Youth and the Energy Transition" here