The BVI graduated its first cohort of 39 certified solar industry professionals from the Caribbean Energy Institute’s Solar Technician Training Programme.
The professionals, who graduated on May 3, have acquired hands-on experience and more than half of the participants have received globally recognised qualifications including the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners® or NABCEP®. Having a NABCEP certification means that the individual is recognised and qualified to work in the field of renewable energy. Prior to this programme, only one person in the Territory possessed a NABCEP license.
At graduation, seventeen (17) students had successfully acquired their NABCEP license as Photovoltaic Installers. In order to become eligible to sit their licensing examination, students demonstrated proficiency in Solar Policies, Procedures and Practices, Introduction to Photovoltaic Site Assessment, Systems Design, Systems Installation, Maintenance and Troubleshooting and Smart Grid.
NABCEP examinations are individually sat and virtually proctored and students have two attempts to pass. Three (3) additional students have passed since graduation. More are expected to attain their licenses by the end of the month.
The solar technician training programme was made possible via grants for scholarships from Unite BVI, the BVI Electricity Corporation, H. Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC) and the Government of the Virgin Islands.
Deputy Premier of the Virgin Islands Dr. the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley, whose portfolio also includes education, told graduates, “You have made yourselves more marketable, equipped yourselves with skills and knowledge to be able to participate fully in this new economy, being established here in the Virgin Islands. You have electrified your dreams. You have fueled your hopes and aspirations. And you’re powering the transformation of your people and the economy.”
“What we are doing…was not done in the financial services nor the tourism sector. This new industry which has arrived to the Virgin Islands, has been reserved exclusively for you.”
The Deputy Premier referenced the superstorms of 2017, the occurrence of same he attributed to climate change. He then stressed the importance of “going green” by utilising “the power of the sun”.
Honourable Wheatley also commended the Unite BVI team for “transforming lives”, adding, “They must feel a great sense of pride, watching you the recipients of these certificates. Because when you put in the work, it’s very gratifying to see the…fruits of the labour.”
Honourable Wheatley also told graduates, “You will be at the forefront of the projects happening in the public sector, adding, “We want to ensure that all our schools, because I can speak to schools, and I’m sure we’ll be able to extend to all our public buildings in the Territory, to be powered by solar.”
The Education Minister also said that two schools that already have installed solar, those being the Bregado Flax Educational Centre and the Leonora Delville Primary School, and said that the Ivan Dawson Primary School will soon be outfitted. The BFEC solar project was also done via a Unite BVI initiative and its donor partners.
Unite BVI Foundation Manager Lauren Keil commented, “The Foundation is proud of the scholarship recipients and all the other graduates who will be making strides in the Virgin Islands’ renewable energy industry.”
“Unite BVI’s overarching vision is to create opportunities that inspire and empower generations of arising world-changers, starting in the BVI. The solar technician programme is certainly in alignment with that vision. It also aligns with our mandate to support entrepreneurs; as many ofthe students will go on to establish their own solar farms and create other business opportunities in the industry.”
The solar technician programme was jointly launched in early 2021 with Unite BVI, the HLSCC Workforce Training Division, Centre for Professional Development and Community Education, and Power 52 Caribbean Energy Institute. Classes began on January 18, 2021. Unite BVI provided 20 scholarships allocated fom grant funding.
One of the graduates and Unite BVI scholarship recipient, Mr. Akim Brewley, said he signed up because he had an interest in solar energy and said the course was a “perfect fit” for him due to its “structured approach to learning the material” along with its integration of the NABCEP certification.
“We had direct access to successful professionals in the field with many years of working experience. Everything was well thought out and implemented. I am grateful to be a part of the programme and aim to take full advantage of all the resources made available.”
Mr. Brewley also said he appreciated the added value incorporated into the programme, which he said includes positive life skills, money management, resume building, public speaking, investing, and business plan writing.
The programme included 360 hours of instruction from the Core Construction Curriculum of the National Council of Construction Education and Research (NCCER). Topics covered include Basic Safety, Construction Math, Hand Tool / Power Tool Operation, Construction Drawing, Material Handling, Communications and Employability.
HLSCC is in the process of finalising internships and employment for graduates of this programme. Some of the graduates are also a part of a large scale solar project taking place on Anegada. Ten (10) of the graduates are already employed, while the electricians who participated in the programme were also able to enhance their business offering