Solar interns graduate from 8-week training

The Just Energy Transition starts today for 23 young graduates of the Solar Youth Academy

At the beginning of May, 23 young people embarked on a solar training programme at the Solar Youth Academy in Cape Town. Today marks not only the graduation of this pilot group, followed by internships for each of them, but also the solid proof that SA finally has a working and sustainable youth training programme with the potential to change lives.

In a landscape where talk outpaces action, Life Choices and GREEN Solar Academy are breaking ground with tangible results from their Solar Youth Academy.

The aim of the Solar Youth Academy, which is to produce work-ready interns for the solar industry, is no longer just a concept note, but a reality, as the pilot group of 23 youths celebrated the end of their two-month training with a graduation ceremony today.

Over the next three years, the Solar Youth Academy will train 138 talented youngsters in total and couple their training with quality work experience at a solar business in South Africa. This program represents a commitment to turning ambitious ideas into transformative opportunities, ensuring that youth not only receive training but also gain the hands-on experience needed to thrive in the solar sector.

How did this programme come about?

The Solar Youth Academy in Cape Town is the only facility in this country offering well-trained interns for the solar sector – and it is a private initiative.

The venue for the training is Life Choices based in Lansdowne, Cape Town. Life Choices is a youth empowerment organisation with an exceptional track record of implementing youth capacity-building and skills training programmes through its Life Choices Academy programmes. They are also partners for the Cape Town branch of GREEN Solar Academy, a provider of short courses for professional PV installers.

GREEN is a QCTO-accredited Skills Development Provider with courses accredited by SAIEE, SAPVIA and the German Society Energy Society (DGS). They have been training solar professionals in South Africa since 2012, and today have academies across the African continent.

In 2022, Life Choices approached GREEN with the concept of the Solar Youth Academy, and work began on the partnership concept incorporating GREEN content and Life Choices expertise in youth development. The partnership made sense.

Everyone is talking about youth training. We’re doing it.

Training young people is not generally part of GREEN’s day-to-day business, but it is a matter close to the heart of the entire team.

“Young people tick differently, have different experiences, and most often require an entirely different approach to our standard one,” explains GREEN CEO and Founder Antje Klauss-Vorreiter. “It was clear that we could only do this if we teamed up with a youth training organisation.”

The dual-pronged approach of these two experts in their respective fields has resulted in an upskilling that delivers both the technical skills sorely needed in the solar industry as well as the personal development skills that create sought-after, well-rounded employees.

“Personally this programme helped me so much. It got me away from troubles and instabilities at home. When I came here, I felt loved and supported – this has become my second family. Technically it has helped me a lot too. I never knew about the solar industry – now it is so exciting. All the new developments in the industry have given me the drive to learn even more.”

Top achiever Inam Mhlakaza, reflecting on her time on the course.

Skills designed to serve the solar industry

The year-long training programme starts with eight weeks of on-site training, followed by 10 months in an internship at a host company, and ending in two weeks of final training and assessment back at Life Choices Academy. The initial eight-week course covers through theory and practical modules the skills that PV mounters need, paired with sessions proven to improve personal growth that are core to Life Choices Academy’s offering.

The syllabus comprises five weeks blended learning (live classroom teaching and guided online learning) in solar basics, components, design, O&M, two weeks hands-on GREEN PV Mounter training, which covers site preparation, hands-on installation on different roof types, wiring of PV Systems, commissioning of inverters, one week of industry engagement through site visits, guest talks and lectures with our technology partners, and two weeks blended life skills, professional development and work-readiness training.

The interns are trained to work safely and efficiently on site and in other areas of a solar business, and they can follow instructions from day one whether on a residential or commercial install.

Mignon Hardie, MD of Life Choices, congratulates the graduates

Long-time GREEN friends and industry guests scouting the talent!

Life coach Queen Gum shares some final words of wisdom with the group.

Kezia Petersen played MC and kept the students and guests entertained in between proceedings

The graduating interns will serve as ambassadors, inspiring others to follow suit.

GREEN trainer McDonald Sekoa wishing the interns well for the journey ahead

“We are comfortable to release these interns into the industry as a support mechanism to our government’s efforts to facilitate the Just Energy Transition.” Vuyo Ntlangu, programme manager of the Solar Youth Academy.

Call for host companies

Thus far, the pilot has been a great success with all 23 candidates who enrolled on the program now graduating. Furthermore, Life Choices has already secured internships for some of the graduates thanks to GREEN Solar Academy’s #GREENetwork, an Africa-wide platform built to foster exchange and collaboration in the solar industry. Now they’re seeking host companies for the remainder of the pilot group as well as for the interns who will graduate in future cohorts.

Vuyo Ntlangu, programme manager of the Solar Youth Academy, is proud of this first cohort. “It has been an awesome experience to journey with young people from the disadvantaged communities of Cape Town to this point where we certify them as Solar PV Installer Assistants,” he says. “The change, growth and maturity we have witnessed has been phenomenal. After undergoing a rigorous solar training programme, we are comfortable to release them into the industry as a support mechanism to our government’s efforts to facilitate the Just Energy Transition.”

Importantly, the young people reached are grateful for the opportunity they have had and the prospects awaiting them in the future.

Want more information on our Solar Youth Academy? Want to apply for interns of your own?