The Wind Turbine Service Training Programme, an initiative of renewable energy project developer EIMS Africa’s portfolio company Cookhouse Wind Farm and operations and maintenance contractor Suzlon, is helping to build technical skills for South Africa’s wind power sector.
This skills-based capacity-building programme demonstrates both sector leadership, as well as the value of collaboration.
Furthermore, the programme addresses localised youth unemployment.
“Recognising that, as the sector gears up to bring more than 14 GW of new wind power capacity online in the next decade, it will need 1 700 skilled technicians to support this rapid growth, the programme reaches beyond our local market, as it is pitched at satisfying global and local training qualification criteria, thereby creating an export skills base,” EIMS Africa says.
“It is the strategy of EIMS Africa to invest in long-term, sustainable initiatives that will contribute to and drive the local economy,” says EIMS Africa and Cookhouse Wind Farm CEO Ryan Hammond.
“By sponsoring local youth and women on this programme, we are empowering and supporting local skills and contributing to meaningful employment. We need to prepare our youth for the future and this is but one of the many innovative, accredited training programmes that our industry is able to invest in, hence we are not only proud to be invested in this initiative but also to have been a trailblazer among our peers,” he says.
This joint youth development programme is directly benefiting local Eastern Cape youth from the Cookhouse Wind Farm beneficiary communities, and is implemented under the stewardship of the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (Saretec).
The youth receive training over a seven-month period, comprising five months of theory and two months on site, and the programme deliberately aims to address the dire unemployment circumstances in this province.
The first group of eight technicians graduated during quarter one of 2022 and plans are already underway for another cohort to attend the programme.
Saretec, which is the training programme’s implementation partner, notes that the local demand is significant as demonstrated by the rapid uptake of all trained technicians from the programme’s first cohort, says Saretec director Mokgadi Modise.
“The recently graduated group, from February this year, were all employed by the time they graduated and were ready for deployment at their respective wind farms,” she says.
Further, South Africa is not the only country that lacks the required number of skilled artisans and this gap is set to increase as the uptake of renewables accelerates across the globe, says Hammond.
“If our country is to build its national pool of artisans in the wind energy sector, wind turbine service technicians are needed even more than ever at a very fast pace to keep up with the target set not only in the Integrated Resource Plan, but also for the just energy transition national agenda,” he adds.
Currently, the ratio between the number of wind turbine service technician graduates produced annually and what would be required if we are to keep with targets, is still low and demonstrates the demand and the impact that this programme will still have in the future.
“We are contributing and supporting our industry and our country’s pool of talent as this technical training programme is pitched at an international standard, in addition to the national standards frameworks such as Quality Council for Trades and Occupations and the National Qualification Framework. This prepares the graduates to work anywhere in the world and rise to the challenge, which is something that we are very proud of,” adds Hammond.
Being cognisant of the demand on the African continent and beyond, wherever wind energy projects are erected, Saretec’s training programme addresses the logistics and high costs of sourcing the maintenance expertise far from projects, concurs Modise.