ASU’s VOCTEC program helps rebuild the country of Sierra Leone

In close collaboration with project sponsor, Danish NGO IBIS, Arizona State University recently concluded a two week train-the-trainer program in Sierra Leone. The West African country of Sierra Leone, with a population of around 6 million, emerged from a devastating civil war in 2002 which devastated social structures and physical infrastructure. Although economic and social developments had accelerated over the last few years, the recent Ebola outbreak has added to the devastation of the country, killing almost 4000 people. This gloomy picture is also mirrored in the country’s electricity metrics, even when compared to its neighboring countries. In Sierra Leone, overall electricity access estimates hover around 10% for a total population of around six million people. Most of the electricity infrastructure is concentrated in the Western Area around the capital city of Freetown. The infrastructure disparity results in a substantial access gap between urban and rural populations with the great majority of rural areas with no access to electricity.

As part of the Promoting Renewable Energy Services for Social Development (PRESSD) program, funded by the 10th European Development Fund to contribute to poverty alleviation through renewable energy services while promoting low-carbon development, IBIS has contracted with Arizona State University (ASU) to implement the Vocational Training in Sierra Leone project.

From May 16 to May 27, ASU conducted a 2-week workshop on solar PV technologies and systems for educators from polytechnic schools, universities, utilities  and the Ministry of Energy in Freetown. The workshop encompassed both, classroom as well as a hands-on (practical) training modules. In addition, non-technical subjects included modules on entrepreneurship and social and gender inclusion. The workshop was attended by 21 participants representing 9 institutions and organizations throughout Sierra Leone. As part of the project, ASU provided the institutions with 7 Mobile Training Toolkits  (MTTs) which served as the vocational training infrastructure for hands-on exercises.

“The training was very well received by all participants,” explained VOCTEC Project Manager Bulent Bicer, “especially due to the fact that our VOCTEC trainings put a great emphasis on hands-on learning using the solar PV MTTs.”

As an outcome of this first workshop, the institutions have started to provide short programs on solar PV energy systems and to integrate the acquired knowledge into their existing syllabus. ASU has also been supporting the creation of a nationally approved vocational certification program on solar PV in Sierra Leone. A second advanced workshop is being planned for Fall of 2016.