Vocational education students learn to install solar panels in Lebanon
Lebanon has been discovering what life is like without electricity. Many are going days without access to power because of skyrocketing fuel prices — a consequence of runaway inflation and the collapse of the Lebanese lira. Although Lebanon has been struggling with electricity shortages for over 30 years, the situation has now reached a nadir.
Amidst this darkness, a new emerging market in Lebanon is helping people adapt. The upshot of the turmoil is a boom in the solar energy sector. More and more people in Lebanon are now relying on alternative and more eco-friendly energy sources.
Anera’s educational team, with support from UNICEF and with funding from Germany through the German Development Bank KfW and the government of Norway, organized a solar installation training in the south of Lebanon.
We partnered with the Science & Culture Association in Saida, a non-governmental organization established in 1992. At their educational center in the heart of Saida city the organization provides after-school support for students with learning difficulties, as well as vocational training for students who were forced to drop out of school at a young age.
One such student is Omar, a 22-year-old Lebanese who dropped out of school in the eighth grade to work and help support his family. But even out of the classroom, Omar retained a thirst for knowledge
“I believe that knowledge is the most powerful weapon. This belief prompted me to learn different skills such as electricity maintenance. I even taught myself basic coding through YouTube videos.”
"I am sure with sufficient experience and perseverance, I will be able to start my own business in this field."
Alternative energy companies are continually advertising and recruiting for workers in solar panel installation and maintenance. Young people have noticed this new demand and are eager to learn this new skill.
“What’s cool is that right after completing this course, I can work as an assistant solar systems installer. And I am sure with sufficient experience and perseverance, I will be able to start my own business in this field.”
Providing these accelerated and certified vocational training courses gives marginalized youth a second chance at building their future.
Tariq is 23-year-old Palestinian refugee who also stepped off of the traditional academic educational path in the tenth grade and shifted towards vocational education. He completed two years as an electrician and then worked for an elevator company.
“I saw how many people have installed panels on their roofs, I got excited when I saw the training ad and enrolled on the spot.”
Tariq is a maintenance expert passionate about the field of solar energy.
“Thanks to this course and my instructor, I managed to install three solar systems all on my own!”
We spoke to Maysa Jastan, the deputy director of the Science & Culture Association. She explained how their center serves the people of Saida by supporting public schools and promoting vocational education programs. These programs help young people earn a living and help them engage in the labor market. Jastan says,
“We added the solar energy and electricity course after we saw the increasing demand for this field in the labor market due to the worsening electricity crisis in Lebanon. We were able to secure job opportunities for 17 of our 20 students immediately after the course.”
Like most of Anera’s vocational courses, only a fraction of the solar installation training is theoretical. The rest of the course is hands-on practical training in addition to the cash-for-work component, which is 40 days of paid practical training. This gives students the necessary experience to enter the labor market and even establish their own businesses.
The course trainer hired by Science & Culture Association is a young engineer, Youssef Al-Arab, a 25-year old-Lebanese solar panel maintenance specialist. He works at Ofoq Alternative Energy Company. Al-Arab says,
“This was an extremely successful training. Each one of the trainees is capable of installing a solar energy system on their own.”
His company recruited seven of the students to work with them on a full-time basis. “I know that they all have an outstanding future in this field,” Youssef says.
Anera's vocational programs prepare students not only for a job after graduation but provide skills that can help them secure a solid career.
“Every human being has so much potential hiding inside him,” Tariq says. “We need to work hard to discover and develop our potential so that we can all achieve our dreams.”