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Newly launched ACES Academy grows skills base for solar PV industry

By Larry Claasen

THE launch of the ACES Academy in Blackheath, outside of Cape Town, in November has given a much needed skills boost to the rapidly growing Solar PV industry. Eskom’s inability at providing a constant supply of electricity has seen households and businesses increasingly installing rooftop Solar PV to mitigate against the reduction in power. 

The increase in demand has seen installers and suppliers scrambling to sign up skilled workers to keep pace. The Academy, an offshoot of ACES Africa (EPCM), was initially conceived as a way to upskill ACES’s own staff, but it soon became evident that the industry as a whole needed to increase its talent pool when it came to renewable energy. Training is needed because the industry is not only growing, but, given the rapid technological developments, it’s also changing at a rapid pace, says Annie Verzier, ACES Academy director. 

“Technology is ever evolving and now more so than ever and especially so in the renewable industry, meaning that every time a new product is launched, the workforce needs to be retrained,” says Verzier. 

The constantly changing technology is one of the reasons ACES Academy works closely with its partners, as it would enable the sector to keep up with the latest trends. 

Partnering Up 

Verzier says ACES’s industry partners have made invaluable contributions to the setting up of the academy, as they have brought in expertise and equipment that are relevant to the courses. 

“Partners such as Herholdt’s Group, Lumax Energy, Sungrow, Switchboard Group, Elum Energy, Helukabel, Jinko Solar, Gedore, Riken Electric and others have provided priceless contributions to the academy that allowed us to equip the space and build our courses with quality teachers and insights. We would not be where we are today without them.” 

The closeness with its partners suits the partners as they get technicians to be more familiar with their equipment, which in turn means they are more likely to buy it once their courses are done. 

Verzier says ACES Academy’s courses differ from others on offer in that it offers training in highly specific skills that are required for a specific job, while the others tend to make the trainees jacks of all trades, masters of none. 

Offering courses in this way not only caters to the specialised needs of people working in the industry but also provides a structured way for people to advance in the PV sector. “We have built courses for students to take them from a panel carrier to an engineer over several courses/ years and give them the required experience to access the next level of training. This way, we allow someone with no experience to enter the Solar PV industry and work his/her way up the ladder.” 

The cost of training varies from course to course. Our entry level course will cost R8 500 (ex VAT), Intermediate Level DC Mechanical and Electrical course R10 000 (ex VAT), and the Advance Level Solar PV AC Installer Training course will cost R12 000 (ex VAT). The academy can host up to 20 students per course, which will last between five and six days. The upcoming courses are advertised through its social media platforms.

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