Youths embody promise of solar technology

On a brisk mid-August day, seven figures moved between the racks of solar panels on the Bissell Centre roof, backdropped by the glass and steel of the downtown Edmonton skyline.

Six trainees, guided by Newo master electrician Adrian Mohammed, were carefully disassembling and reassembling a section of the solar array built expressly by Newo for training purposes.

This spring, Newo partnered with iHuman Youth Society, an organization that helps Edmonton youth become contributing members of society, to successfully apply for an EcoCity Edmonton grant and install a 55-kW solar array on iHuman’s roof. 

Included in the project proposal was a five-day training program offering iHuman program participants hands-on solar panel installation experience in conjunction with classroom sessions covering system components and renewable energy technologies. 

“(iHuman) were super excited, and I think what was really important to them is we’re not here to execute a job, say a bunch of words and walk away,” explained Adrian. “For them, the value was that we took time and talked about our roots, which is living through Wahkohtowin (a Cree principle encompassing ‘kinship’).”

The trainees, four young iHuman program participants and two adult iHuman employees, listened intently to Adrian’s instructions, following directions and maintaining social distance. Now on the final day of the course, the young trainees said they were finding the training “pretty interesting, and easy,” as well as “super informative.”

“This is the new world. It’s like the future,” said Fouad, 21.

“Solar energy is going to revolutionize the way we go about things,” agreed Saidee, 20. “It’s been a lot of fun. Adrian’s a really good teacher. He’s good at explaining.”

“I’m happy I could get an understanding of our next generation, just the way they’re going to be running the world,” added Alby, 21, “how they’re going to be participating and reducing CO2 emissions and stuff like that.”

“For a long time, I didn’t know solar energy was actually a doable thing, and then when I got this opportunity, I was like, ‘OK, well, now I’ll learn about it,’” said Victoria, 20. “Now I know it’s actually really doable, and it’s not as hard as it looks.”

Reasons for signing up to the training included pragmatic considerations about the fact the trainees were paid for their time, but extended to contagious enthusiasm for learning and for solar itself.

“Eventually, everyone is going to go solar,” said Fouad.

“Yeah, everybody’s going to hop on board with that,” agreed Saidee. “The industry’s rapid growth is going to be creating a significant amount of jobs, and if you already have that knowledge, then it’s definitely going to help you in the future.” 

All four said they were interested in being one of two trainees selected to work on the upcoming iHuman installation.

“It was a pretty good group,” Adrian said. “They certainly do, after working with them, have barriers to employment, and whatever we can do to help them gain that experience and confidence, I think is what they need. Especially in today’s climate, for sure, because there’s so much uncertainty.”

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