Pandemic accelerates solar training shift to digital

Pandemic accelerates solar training shift to digital

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Shifting solar training to be facilitated digitally was always on the cards. The current pandemic has however made this a reality.

The Solar Training Centre (STC) has partnered with the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) and South African Energy Efficiency Confederation (SAEEC) to offer the PV GreenCard course digitally. This is the first ever live digital PV GreenCard training course to be presented in South Africa.

The theoretical courses are usually hosted at Potchefstroom and delegates from all over the country and Africa would have to cross borders and travel to the province to attend the week-long course. Standard group sizes consisted of 15 to 30 delegates and the first digital class was attended by 14 delegates who attended the course via Zoom in June 2020.

Training plays a key role in the sustainable uptake of the solar PV industry. With increased electricity tariffs and sporadic load shedding more PV systems are being installed, sometimes by persons with no qualification, proof of competence or technical background.

Installers who have received training and are endorsed by SAPVIA’s PV GreenCard ensure adherence to best practice and safeguarding of the future of the industry. Over the last two years more than 800 participants have been trained throught the PV GreenCard programme.

The SAPVIA PV GreenCard is an industry led quality label that was developed to promote safe and high-quality solar PV installation.

The PV GreenCard Programme focuses on education, skills development, and training to build installer capacity as well as improve standards development and compliance in line with international best practice. More than 800 participants have been trained through the PV GreenCard programme over the last 2 years.

Course facilitator, Faure van Schalkwyk of the Solar Training Centre admits that presenting the course in this format had its challenges such as connectivity and added self-discipline required from not attending a class physically. Going online also opened up the training to a bigger market share as accommodation and some travel expense were now eliminated. Attendees also tended to be less engaging at times but an SAEEC admin supported attendance registration system verified daily and regular attendance throughout the day.

Feedback from some of the delegates is that they were skeptical about the online training but ended up appreciating the lecturer’s hands on approach.

One of the delegates, Wayne Stanley who attended the first course says, “I recently joined the training provided by SAPVIA. At first, I was very skeptical to join the online training but the course material was very well laid out and documented. The lecturer’s hands on experience was beyond reproach and the STC team were very helpful and well organised and I would recommend them to anyone.”

“I attended the PV GreenCard Training Course, which has been one of the most informative coursed that I have been on. The course was well put together and the classes not too long or difficult to understand. The work was well explained and it felt empowering to know that we would understand the work every time we finished a class. To end it off we had an amazing practical for which enough time was set aside so no one felt pressured about not making mistakes,” said Daniel Baard who also attended the course.

The theoretical part of the course which was usually covered in three days, was presented live and incorporated visuals and videos to explain complex concepts. It was a challenge to work through all the course material on time faced with the challenges as mentioned above. Moving forward the theoretical training will be split into two parts with classes presented over two weeks with no price implications. This will give more time to convey and absorb the information and allow participants to tend to their day to day activities during the week.

The one-day practical course was facilitated by STC outdoors on the premises of SAEEC in Johannesburg and presented to groups of six healthy delegates all in their required PPE to prevent any COVID-19 infection.

The courses were attended by people who have been in the industry and wanting to get certification. The next course dates are 28 July 2020, and 17 August 2020.

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