However, SARETEC only has one campus. To meet demand, they partner with vocational training colleges around the country. Their ‘hub-and-spokes’ model involves identifying colleges with the basic infrastructure that can assist with programme delivery. Industry then provides the necessary renewable energy elements. For instance, colleges that teach mechanical engineering can easily be adapted to work with wind turbines. SARETEC also focuses on local needs: they only partner colleges whose regional economies will directly benefit from collaboration, by funnelling graduates into local jobs.
The learner experience itself involves minimal classroom learning. The majority of training is delivered via lab work or through employer placements. This benefits students with hands-on experience while reducing college costs. Notably, work experience usually takes place at companies different from the ones where students end up working. This is deliberate – it aims to prepare students for the industry at large, rather than for a specific employer.
Ekurhuleni East TVET College: A block learning approach to apprenticeships
Ekurhuleni East TVET College, in South Africa’s Gauteng province, offers a wide range of vocational training. This covers everything from civil engineering to finance and economics. The college also trains artisan tradespeople (such as plumbers and electricians) via apprenticeships. While all apprenticeships combine knowledge and practical skills, only some take the traditional route of front-loaded classroom training followed by work placements.
Proving far more popular is the college’s new dual approach. Apprentices in the dual system alternate between short blocks of college learning (a few weeks) followed by work-based training with their employer. During each college block, apprentices obtain the necessary knowledge and skills required to carry out specific vocational tasks, such as how to install a boiler. They then return to their employer and put what they’ve learned into practice. This allows apprentices to apply particular aspects of their trade while it’s fresh in their minds, before moving onto a new skill.
To support each learner’s continuing development, employers also provide the college with regular updates on apprentice progress. This allows them to identify skills gaps immediately, bringing apprentices back on campus to address issues as they arise.
But how is this relevant to the green economy? Firstly, and most directly, the dual approach is being used to teach apprentices how to install and maintain renewable technologies, such as solar water heating systems. However, because plumbers are in high demand, putting apprentices to work quickly (rather than training them for prolonged periods before sending them out in the field) is aiding a more rapid transition to a sustainable economy.
Going green in the UK
As these case studies highlight, a shift towards a green economy offers twin benefits. The first, most obvious one, is that young people will have access to vital employment opportunities at a time when the economy is recovering from major disruption. But as we seek new ways to teach skills fast, the green transition also provides an opportunity to rethink our approach to Higher Education and vocational training more broadly. Undoubtedly, the green economy will play an increasingly central part in Edge’s future work. Keep your eyes peeled for more!