The origin of Enlight Institute

     

    July 30, 2019

     

    Enlight founder Jay Patel on how the Enlight Institute is improving employment options for rural youth and speeding up sustainable solar adoption in East Africa

     

    The idea of a traveling solar academy, now known as the Enlight Institute, came about thanks to the vision and coordinated efforts of several people. And a couple of lucky encounters.
     

    In 2015, on my first trip to Uganda, I was so inspired by Village Energy’s CEO Abu Musuuza that I soon found myself moving to Uganda to help him relaunch his company around a new distribution model for solar repair services. Little did I know then that this was the seed of what would become the Enlight Institute.

     

    As we were working, I soon realized that the lack of human capital for solar salespeople and technicians wasn’t just a company-specific need but an industry-wide issue. In fact, the lack of qualified solar technicians was holding back sustainable solar adoption across the whole of East Africa!

    A need becomes an idea

     

    In March 2016 I was in South Africa attending a German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) workshop, when I started thinking about an idea for a traveling academy to run solar trainings in technical and sales skills for rural youth, who could then get jobs at various solar companies. 

     

    Before long we were running a small pilot in Eastern Uganda with 11 graduates of a vocational training school"

    Now I had the idea, but I needed some help to make it a reality. Fortunately, my old friend Ania Zuzek was finishing up her Masters at Columbia with a focus on emergency education. Lucky me! When I told her my idea of a traveling solar academy, she jumped right in, and before long we were running a small pilot in Eastern Uganda with 11 graduates of a vocational training school.

     

    Six of those first students subsequently got work on a major on-grid solar installation, and we knew we were onto something. I convinced Abu to bring Ania on as Director of Training for Village Energy, with the long-term goal of launching the academy as a separate institution. We began to build towards our goal of launching the academy.

    Enlight Trainees

    The Enlight Institute becomes a reality


    With a grant from Signify Foundation, Enlight Institute was formed in January 2018 to launch the academy, starting with an 8-week solar technician course which we developed and piloted in Eastern and Western Uganda, with around 30 graduates. The participants are 30% women, and many of them are graduates of vocational programs in electrical studies. All received holistic training in solar technical, sales and professional skills.

     

    Graduates receive job placement support to get a full-time job at solar companies – or use the skills they receive to go into business for themselves as independent contractors."

    Graduates receive job placement support to get a full-time job at solar companies (including – but not limited to – Village Energy) or use the skills and toolkits they receive to go into business for themselves as independent contractors. To date, 60% of graduates have found employment or contract work within six months.
    Enlight Trainees working

    Facing down the challenges


    Our hardest challenges are logistical: it’s no easy task to mobilize recruits daily in areas where public transport is lacking and the roads themselves frequently turn into mud pits during the rainy season. However, we have been blown away by the enthusiasm, hard work, and quickness to learn show by our graduates.

     

    The goal of Enlight is to provide skills training and job placement for youth and solve the human capital challenges of last-mile clean energy companies"

    In July 2018 Enlight was formally incorporated as a for-profit social enterprise because we saw how much economic value is unlocked for companies through solving their human capital needs. Our goal is to provide skills training and job placement support to youth in developing countries to help them enter the formal job sector or improve their informal livelihoods, as well as solve the human capital challenges of clean energy companies operating at the last mile.
     

    Our solar technical curriculum will be used by Uganda’s Directorate of Industrial Training for national certification of solar technicians through stakeholder workshops with dozens of solar companies and industry stakeholders.

    Enlight van
    Enlight has also won contracts to train 300 youth in technical and sales skills over the next two years, and now has a team of five people, including two trainers. We’re currently in talks with some of the largest solar companies in the region on solving their recruitment and training needs.

     

    The continued support of Signify Foundation is crucial; as a founding partner we truly could not have done it without them"

    Together we can achieve a low-carbon economy

     

    However, our vision is much bigger than just trainings: we want to revolutionize the way students are assessed for employability, moving beyond test scores and grades to a more holistic yet quantifiable assessment of their skills and behaviors.
     

    We’re using our trainings as a laboratory to test our curriculum and assessments that, if successful, could scale globally. The continued support of Signify Foundation is crucial; as a founding partner we truly could not have done it without them.
     

    I’m excited to grow together to help reshape the human capital landscape for solar across East Africa and beyond.
     

    And on a personal note, it’s amazing to think that what started as an idea over three years ago is a reality on the ground. One that has already impacted the lives of dozens of youth, with the potential to reach so many more.

    About the author:

    Jay Patel

    Jay Patel

    Founder Enlight Institute

    For further information, please contact:

    Signify Global Media Relations
    Neil Pattie
    Tel: + 31 6 15 08 48 17
    Email: neil.pattie@signify.com

    About Signify

     

    Signify (Euronext: LIGHT) is the world leader in lighting for professionals and consumers and lighting for the Internet of Things. Our Philips products, Interact connected lighting systems and data-enabled services, deliver business value and transform life in homes, buildings and public spaces. With 2018 sales of EUR 6.4 billion, we have approximately 29,000 employees and are present in over 70 countries. We unlock the extraordinary potential of light for brighter lives and a better world. We have been named Industry Leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for two years in a row. News from Signify is located at the NewsroomTwitterLinkedIn and Instagram. Information for investors can be found on the Investor Relations page.

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