With the growth in wind energy utilities, the demand to install, repair and maintain such facilities in Africa, including South Africa, is on the rise, says Knowledge Pele (KP) Academy head Richard Setati.
He tells Engineering News that many reports and commentators attest to the overall growth of the renewable-energy sector, referencing South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as a source.
A major driver of this growth is Africa’s need for electricity access. Dubbed the “dark continent” in the Victorian era because little was known about the interior of the continent, the term could now relate to the fact that about 600-million Africans, according to International Energy Agency’s Energy Access Outlook 2017, do not have access to electricity.
In South Africa, Setati says the updated Integrated Resource Plan provides a good estimate of the renewable-energy market size, with a further 6 300 MW peak allocated for renewable-energy procurement in South Africa. In 2017, 6 422 MW of electricity had been procured from 112 renewable-energy independent power producers, states the Department of Energy (DoE).
Of the renewable energy projects commissioned in South Africa, the South African Wind Energy Association reports that, there are 25 wind energy facilities, 22 of which fall under the DoE’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer’s Procurement Programme. The 25 facilities comprise more than 961 wind turbines and an installed capacity of 2 410.4 MW.
“We have no confirmed statistics for the rest of Africa, but the biggest wind farm on the continent is in Morocco,” adds Setati, who notes that the increased uptake of renewable energy is also playing out in some other African countries, where governments back renewables as the future. For example, as of June, multinational renewable-energy company Gigawatt Global Cooperatief signed a deal with the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States to build $1-billion worth of renewable-energy projects in the region, installing 800 MW through the construction of solar and wind farms in West Africa, beginning with Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria and the Gambia.
To ensure that the wind energy sector has the requisite number of artisans, who are adequately skilled to meet its needs, research and development advisory firm KP, part of the Pele Energy Group of companies, launched the KP Academy, in Kramerville, Johannesburg, in less than a year to date.
“The crux of the matter is for a learner to relate theory to practice in the workplace/industry to support the sustainability of the wind-energy sector and other renewable-energy sectors. This is the commitment of the entire Pele Energy Group working through its KP Academy.
“The academy has, thus far, had positive responses from important role-players who want to be relevant to world trends and the realities of our country,” says Setati, noting that technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges are opening their doors, industries want to talk new approaches and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) is looking forward to KP Academy developing learning material for new renewable-energy technologies qualifications in line with developed curricular.
The rest of Africa has not yet expressed interest in KP Academy’s offer, but Setati believes the academy will soon forge partnerships.
However, he stresses that the domestic opportunities of enhancing course deliveries and ensuring systems and platforms are in place for skills transfer takes pre-eminence, adding that sector education and training authority (Seta) accreditation and the QCTO approval are already internationally benchmarked, making it easier for KP Academy to link up with similar providers of learning in the international arena.
KP Academy designs courses that meet the needs of employers and learners by interpreting research reports from academia, Setas, reputable bodies and KP’s research division into courses, qualifications and intervention programmes. The focus of KP Academy is to produce entrepreneurially minded artisans, who are both suitable for
employment and capable of creating their own enterprises to take advantage of
opportunities in the sector. This is done by innovatively combining available resources, facilities and structures to bring improvements in collaborations, methodologies and, ultimately, learning and applied outcomes.
KP Academy has formulated Energy and Water Seta- (EWSeta-) approved courses, running fully fledged artisan training programmes, learnerships, short courses and workshops to usher in “entrepreneurial artisans”. It also includes a focus on creative industry artisans.
Setati describes an entrepreneurial artisan as a problem solver, a lateral thinker and an entrepreneur who uses current technologies and opportunities in the marketplace. “The entrepreneurial artisan’s scope of competencies goes beyond core skills acquired through TVETs, workplaces and Trade Test Centres.”
The academy includes a combination of facilitators and professional mentors to keep up with trends in vital sectors, such as the energy sector, of the economy. “Apart from our own infrastructure and resources, KP Academy also uses TVET facilities and workshops which are equipped with facilities worth millions of rands by the Department of Higher Education,” adds Setati.
In addition, KP Academy has partnered with TVETS earmarked as Centres of Specialisation throughout South Africa. “These colleges are minimally equipped for wind- and solar-energy systems training and simulation centres and are, therefore, ideal for KP Academy to work with,” says Setati.
These colleges offer new qualification streams called National Certificate Vocational (NCV) with specially trained facilitators in renewable-energy technology. The certificates incorporate both theory and practical per level and culminate in National Qualification Framework (NQF) 4. KP Academy uses this new NCV stream as the basis for the entrepreneurial artisan and is currently developing the NQF5 qualification for wind turbine service technicians for approval by the QCTO. “This will offer artisans a vertical progression towards NQF6,” states Setati.
KP sees skills and entrepreneurial development in rural, peri-urban and township communities as needed interventions in fighting unemployment and the pervasively low levels of economic participation.
Therefore, all courses offered by KP Academy are underpinned by the Starter Pack: Enterprise Development programme, which is the academy’s approach to integrating entrepreneurship training into all skills programmes. KP Academy’s belief is that entrepreneurship is first and foremost, a lifeskill. It, therefore, focuses on enhancing professional literacy and numeracy and the development of entrepreneurial grit to “foster the ability to rise stronger with each fall”. This course is currently taught in the Western Cape, North West and Northern Cape provinces.
Ensuring Work Placements
Answering the call to support the TVET college system, KP Academy became involved in the EWSeta Workplace Integrated Learning project at the beginning of the year. This project entails preparing and placing a group of students who possess N6 certificates of theoretical learning into workplaces.
“We are proud to see that our current cohort is getting their hands dirty in workshops, working on installations, maintenance of electrical equipment and renewable-energy systems in Gauteng and the North West,” explains KP MD Fumani Mthembi. KP Academy continues to provide coaching and mentorship to the 30 learners who are based at ‘secondary employers’ on a full-time basis. “We look forward to their evolution into entrepreneurial energy artisans.”