Small island states are particularly vulnerable to climate change. In response to this common threat, a greener, resilient and more sustainable economy is a common goal for the English-speaking Caribbean. Countries have pledged to mitigate climate change and increase the share of electricity generated from renewable energy sources. While this resolve is praiseworthy, the transition to renewable energy is hampered by the need for qualified professionals. At least 27,066 renewable energy professionals are required to fulfill national clean energy targets in these countries. This includes jobs in installation, operation and maintenance of renewable energy infrastructure such as solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants.
Renewable Energy can Create Jobs
The energy transition is probably the best job creation opportunity of any sector in the decades to come. A recent study from the IDB estimated that a net-zero carbon emissions economy in Latin America and the Caribbean could create 15 million net jobs in the next decade. The region is very well positioned to achieve this considering the tremendous natural resources at hand, the cheapest renewable electricity worldwide and the largest copper and lithium reserves necessary for the looming revolution and electrification of the transport sector. But first, we need to train our people to seize this opportunity, facing a green social development.
With 57% of Belize’s electricity supply from renewable energy, the country surpasses the average for small island countries (13.6%2). Yet, the country will not reach its goal of 85 percent of renewable energy by 2030, unless more professionals are trained. The skill gap is felt keenly in the renewable energy sector. As Marbelie Lozano, manager at Solar Energy Solutions Belize Limited puts it “The lack of technical degrees in renewable energy makes it very challenging for a company operating in the solar energy sector. We have to train our own professionals to install solar systems. We offer them our very own 4-week course including hands-on training as there aren’t any complete technical degrees in the country for installing solar systems.” Of course, what the training companies are currently providing is an immediate business solution that cannot substitute a comprehensive technical training in renewable energy with a formal degree.
Technical Education to Help Close the Renewable Energy Skills Gap
To help close the green economy skills gap, the IDB has joined forces with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology (MOECST), Solar Energy Solutions Belize (SESB), the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and other private sector partners to start a modern technical and vocational education and training (TVET) ecosystem in the country. Nova Scotia Community College, an institution with extensive experience in technical and vocational education and the development of skills for the green economy, will develop and implement a 2-year renewable energy program at the Belize City Institute for Vocational Technical Education and Training (ITVET). This program will be launched in January 2022.
The vision in the medium term is to promote Belize as a laboratory for innovation in skills formation on green energy for the English-speaking Caribbean. Belize has a small population which makes the country the perfect setting for testing models and materials that can be scaled, adapted, and transferred to its neighbors in the Caribbean. Once validated and evaluated, all content will be made available for countries across the region through a community of practice and an online knowledge-sharing platform that will work as an information repository. In addition, this project presents a key opportunity for a tourism-depended economy (39% of Belize’s GDP) to diversify sources of growth and employment after the harsh consequences of COVID-19. By creating opportunities to train youth to work in renewable energies, this project will offer highly qualified professionals to a new industry with high employment generation potential that also supports the transition to the green economy.
This project is funded by the Multi-Donor Fund for the Transformation of TVET in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Fund was formally established in October 2019 with the contribution of the Governments of Germany and Switzerland with the objective of financing innovative solutions aimed at creating or consolidating modern, private sector-led skills ecosystems to prepare the region to successfully face the challenges of the future of work.
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