Ukraine's Energy Innovative Hubs

Backed by Germany's overseas aid agency, a Ukrainian project to increase energy efficiency via "energy innovative hubs" in vocational training schools and universities could revolutionise the country's approach to energy use.

It is one of nearly a dozen finalists in the European Training Foundation's Green Skills Award, recently announced.

The Energy Innovative Hubs - which involve the development of new professional qualifications in energy efficiency - currently being piloted in 10 regions across Ukraine are part of the Energy Efficiency Reforms project, commissioned by the Germany Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The project - which aims to address the gap in qualifications and vocational training in Ukraine's energy efficiency sector - is being implemented by Germany's overseas aid agency, GIZ.

Iryna Yuryeva, Project Advisor to GIZ, says that, "professional training in energy efficiency is of vital importance in Ukraine, as the sector experiences a shortage of competent workers able to work effectively with modern equipment and technologies in energy-efficient construction, thermal modernisation, and energy management."

The project could have a profound impact on energy efficiency in Ukraine, with the "potential of jobs specifically in thermal modernisation [numbering] 795,000, according to a research exercise, 'Creation of Jobs in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of Ukraine', conducted in 2020."

The potential for such massive change is based on a few simple objectives: developing curricula and trainings to adapt learning materials to form vocational competences in the required fields; creating the environment for innovative learning for dynamic solutions; and to promote both energy efficiency generally in the wider population and the professions and competencies in the energy efficiency world to relevant audiences.

Courses such as 'construction supervision', 'façade insulation', 'flat-roofing', 'pipe insulation', and 'installation of energy efficient windows' may sound mundane, but have the potential to literally change the environment for the better.

The aim of the project, which also involves the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and companies in the energy efficiency sector, expects to significantly contribute to "capacity development of the construction universities and vocational schools to train highly competent engineers and workers, teachers and instructors," Iryna says.

It supports the cooperation of educational institutions with businesses - including contributions from businesses to both developing curricula and teaching - work based learning is a feature of the new courses - and aims to increase the interest of young Ukrainians, particularly women and girls, in pursuing careers in energy efficiency.

Three Energy Innovative Hubs, situated at Ukrainian technical universities in the western and eastern parts of the country, are at the heart of the project. Supplied with equipment for practical training (with the support of companies involved in the sector and scheme), the hubs are incorporated into the university structures. Designed as learning centres, the hubs offer students the opportunity to learn about energy efficiency both through hands-on experience and 3D tours, enabling virtual excursions during the pandemic restrictions.

The hubs are also designed as awareness-raising centres for the wider public and venues to promote energy efficiency, both on site and via e-courses and other digital initiatives. By promoting innovative solutions to Ukraine's energy efficiency needs, the project hopes to multiply the impact of its approach to redesigning technical training.

The project works in close cooperation with government stakeholders, including the Ministry of Development of Communities and Territories, Ministry of Education and Science, the State Agency for Energy Efficiency and Energy Savings, the State Employment Agency, and regional and local administrations to ensure it addresses all relevant needs.

"We’ve had high interest in cooperation from vocational education and training schools, which train workers in energy efficiency," Iryna adds. "We plan to offer the courses and training material to all VET schools, via sharing the materials with the Ministry of Education."

Working closely with 25 companies (both local and European) and "the biggest construction associations in Ukraine" is also key to the project's implementation, says Iryna, who has been working in education for more than 25 years since graduating as a teacher of European languages.

"These companies participate in elaborating, validating, and teaching the curricula. They provide work-based learning, internships and practical training for teachers and students. Businesses and industries are extremely active in energy efficiency promotion, awareness-raising, and career guidance campaigns."

Iryna says she and her team consider being a finalist in the ETF GreenSkills Awards "a great honour".

"It is the recognition of the hard work of our project and project partners in making our country greener and carbon neutral in a way that combines with the creation of opportunities for modern vocational education."

She adds that she hopes their example will motivate others towards "meaningful and noble goals" - something which has always been at the heart of her career as an educator, part of her vision that "education and learning make a person self-conscious and competent."

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