December 15, 2016

William Brent


Building a Million-Strong Youth Workforce

A year ago we interviewed Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, the outgoing CEO of Sustainable Energy for All. Sharing his insights on levers for change, Dr. Yumkella listed the key elements vital for a shift to a low-carbon future. One such critical factor: training. To achieve universal access to clean power, he explained, we will need to create a new wave of “installers of solar household systems, LPG distributors, service providers and builders of the internet; so that solar systems and other systems will be proliferating in the millions in various economies”.

In 2016, many have taken up the mantle—countries, such as India, have started to integrate decentralized energy training within their broader skills agenda, organizations including Energy4Impact and Energia, have continued to build on their critical work providing hands-on enterprise support and support for female entrepreneurs, while companies including Village Power, SELCO, Mobisol and Off Grid Electric have created their own robust in-house training and academies. Yet none have targeted the area of training more specifically than Schneider Electric. With its leading Access to Energy program and collaborations with civil society organizations and local authorities— Schneider has already trained 100,000 people globally and is targeting 1 million by 2025. We caught up with Thomas Andre, Access to Energy Program Strategy Director, to hear why 2017 will be a critical year for mobilizing workforce capacity.

Listen to the Q&A, or read the transcript below. 

Power for All: 1 million is a big number. What needs to happen to achieve that and more--and what are the current barriers?

Thomas Andre: One million is not such a big number when you consider that the Skill India program plans to train 400 million young people in technical skills by 2022. Yet in each emerging country, that is the level of effort that is needed to address skills and capacity gaps and opportunities. What is encouraging is that many governments have, or are about to, launch Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVeT) programs for their youth. Yet, there is much more to do, and some critical points Schneider Electric focuses on:

  • ‘Training the Trainers’: to create long-term sustainable change, and ensure that educators are given the skills they need to fully train and support their students  
  • Providing Educational Equipment: to equip laboratories with adequate—and enough—technical equipment, localizing the production of educational equipments to ensure that training that is relevant to each country or region, and
  • Addressing Gender Dynamics: to ensure that steps are taken to tackle the challenge of bringing women into the energy sector workforce.

Although Schneider will contribute to this picture by training one million people through the expansion of our current network of global partners, in 2017, we also aim to create an alliance of corporates and development agencies that will join us in supporting promising initiatives in skills development.

The need for capacity building and the critical role this will play in energy access is increasingly well recognized. Are you seeing more support for this work by national policy-makers and other key decision-makers?

More and more emerging countries are recognizing the role that upskilling young people plays in development, job creation and social cohesion, yet not all decision makers are considering capacity building as critical for energy access. It is often only addressed when needs appear... in other words, when it is too late.

Looking into the crystal ball for 2017, what new, or innovative, training and capacity building schemes do you see on the horizon in the DRE space?

We have seen a trend emerging with more focus on capacity building and it is something we hope will continue to 2017. In particular, we are seeing more programs focussed around centers of excellence, which is something we plan to get involved in. 2017 is close and vocational training is sadly not magical - but if we do look into the crystal ball, Schneider Electric will be launching training pilots in Africa with a focus on microgrids, and small decentralized renewable energy solutions, a program of vocational training covering all aspects of solar energy—with a pilot in Haiti—and beginning to explore how to use videos and digital and interactive content for remote training—perhaps engaging local TELCOs. We are even looking at virtual reality and augmented reality to test emerging technologies in new environments.

Schneider just signed an ambitious partnership in India that includes setting up 100 technical training centers to train poor, unemployed youth. Is this a model for other countries, and do you see similar opportunities elsewhere?

In every country we always design our projects to match the local needs. Nevertheless, we consider the Indian project as a reference point for other projects, and have just signed a letter of intent with the Indonesian government that could lead to another ambitious collaboration, based on the same programmatic approach. The idea is to set up one central training center for trainers and to re-equip national vocational training centers. Similarly, with the NGO, Salesians of Don Bosco, we will equip five vocational training centers in Mozambique, while in South Africa, we will establish five more Centers of Excellence in partnership with the French Ministry of Education.

For 2017, we are expecting a lot more to come.

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