Gung-ho over green skills: Empowering young women to create a sustainable future

August 11, 2023


It is a pleasant morning in Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, as 23-year-old Tridha Tripathi leaves for work. "Many people think that solar panels would work better in hot weather, but surprisingly, they actually perform worse if the temperature is too high,” she remarks, pointing towards a row of solar panels around her office.

A trained solar technician, Tridha is quickly learning the ropes as a renewable energy professional. In a rapidly changing world, green skills are vital to empower young people while accelerating the transition towards a green economy that moves away from the use of fossil fuels.

Recent estimates suggest that 600 million jobs would have to be created globally over the next 15 years to meet youth employment needs. Green skills in sectors like sustainable manufacturing, renewable energy expertise, nature-based livelihoods and environmental conservation are well poised towards enabling youth to contribute towards a sustainable future while building prosperous careers.

With support from the Government of Japan, UNDP is partnering with the Skill Council for Green Jobs (SCGJ) to enhance the availability of labour force in the green jobs space. The skill council, by working as an interface between industry, academia and policy, addresses the skill requirements of emerging green industries.

As a part of the programme, course curriculum and training modules have been developed for 4 emerging roles in the renewable energy sector, with a focus on electric vehicle charging infrastructure, solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal industries. The modules were then used to train 1,000 individuals across 5 states in India.

Typically, the number of women in such training is low due to a variety of reasons, the primary being the financial and social barriers that prevent them from being able to get skilling and employment opportunities. To address this, an incentive of INR 2,500 (USD 30) was offered to each woman who participated in the training. “This helped me convince my family to join this training as I was not dependent on them for expenses like travel and food,” recollects Tridha.

Such support saw a sharp increase in the number of women not only joining, but also completing the training. Out of the 1,000 participants certified, 29% were women, against the industry average of 10-15%, demonstrating the immense potential of women’s contribution towards the country’s economic growth and its green transition journey when provided with the right support and platforms.

After a 45-day training programme, Tridha was offered a job as a Solar PV Installer at Saitech Energy Space Systems, an enterprise specializing in installing commercial and residential solar power plants in Madhya Pradesh. In her short 4-month stint, Tridha has shown great ability to learn, and is today contributing to other areas of the organization’s work like inventory management and client handling.

There are many socio-cultural barriers that are also addressed as more women join the workforce in non-conventional and non-traditional roles. “Since childhood, I was brought up to believe that science and engineering roles were suited for men. Even while deciding what to pursue for higher education, I had to choose commerce. But in just a month and half of this training, I realized this was something I could do as easily. Also, my family is now more open about me travelling to remote project sites, and seeing my professional journey, they are proud of the work I’m doing,” explains Tridha.

An additional 8.4 million jobs for young people could be created by 2030 globally through the implementation of green and blue policy measures. Training young women in green skills is essential for gender equality and sustainable development. By involving women in sectors like renewable energy, conservation, and sustainability practices, we harness their true potential, broaden perspectives, and enhance innovation.

This inclusion contributes to more effective and holistic solutions to address environmental and social challenges. Moreover, women often play central roles in household and community decision-making. By providing them green skills, we can enhance the adoption of sustainable practices at grassroots levels.

“Growing up, I always imagined electricity being generated from large, noisy power stations with big, complex machines. It still amazes me every day to see how such a small device can do the same,” muses Tridha, as she inspects a circuit board.

It is small changes, after all, that lead to big transformations.