The Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority (EWSETA) is planning to work closely with hydrogen sector role-players in South Africa in an effort to ensure that as the uptake of this technology grows, young people are being capacitated with the knowledge and skills needed to see this technology flourish.
The authority notes that Brazil had to halt its development of hydrogen fuel cell technology because of challenges with available skills, and that it is important that South Africa learns from Brazil’s experience and ensures that the right skills are available to embrace all that the hydrogen technology is able to offer the country.
The role of industry in developing skills cannot be overstated and, to date, several organisations have worked with hydrogen association HySA to deploy much-needed research, development and skills as South Africa seeks to grow its hydrogen economy.
Platinum group metals miner Impala Platinum funded one of three HySA centres of competence, with R6-million to enable the prototype development of hydrogen fuel cell driven materials handling and underground mining equipment.
The miner also supported another centre – HySA Catalysis, by supplying platinum for the scale up of the production of South African developed fuel cell catalysts.
Anglo American Platinum, together with the Young Engineers and Scientists of Africa group, and the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement, developed an educational programme in 2015 that has been rolled out to schools in Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape, teaching learners about the science of fuel cells.
To date, 3 500 learners from grades R to 12, at 26 schools have benefited from this programme.
More recently, Bambili Energy entered into a partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the South African National Energy Development Institute, HySA, the University of Pretoria (UP) and the EWSETA to train unemployed graduates from technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges and universities of technology.
These graduates progressed with N4- or N6-level qualifications in chemical and electrical engineering on hydrogen energy.
To date, a cohort of 17 candidates has successfully completed the six-week training programme that included unemployed graduates from TVET colleges and universities of technology and technical professionals from the Department of Defence, DSI, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.
Among the students, three candidates, who successfully completed the programme, have been awarded an EWSETA-funded internship with Bambili Energy.
While UP offers a university-accredited introductory short course in hydrogen fuel cell systems, the course does not offer credits towards a full qualification.
“The existence of an accredited occupational qualification underpins the success of growing knowledge on any subject, but there is currently no accredited occupational qualification on hydrogen in South Africa,” says EWSETA CEO Mpho Mookapele.
He adds that the EWSETA has joined forces with Bambili Energy to offer subject matter expertise and made a submission to the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations to register a skills programme on hydrogen.
The DSI has initiated a process, with other government and industry stakeholders, to develop a Hydrogen Society Roadmap that will lead South Africa towards a hydrogen society.
The aim of the roadmap is to create a policy document that will inform all relevant parties in South Africa about the potential and immediate benefits of developing and deploying hydrogen technologies.
In addition, the roadmap will address how these benefits can be integrated into the South African renewable energy masterplan, the result being the first draft of the Hydrogen Society Roadmap that was completed at the end of November 2020.
The EWSETA is a key stakeholder in this hydrogen roadmap exercise and represents the skills needs of the hydrogen economy on various committees, that includes among others, the deployment oversight committee and human capital development subcommittee.
“Meeting the country’s energy challenges requires that we embrace any and all opportunities to grow our renewable energy footprint and with this comes numerous skills developments and employment opportunities. As the EWSETA, we are intent on working with all industry stakeholders to ensure that our young people join us on this exciting journey,” concludes Mookapele.