Photovoltaic installations, a niche for social and labor insertion

The implementation and expansion of policies related to the environment and climate action, such as the circular economy and the energy transition, create new industrial and professional needs. Activities that open, in turn, countless possibilities for innovation, employment and solutions to new needs. And, also, the not so new ones.

These are the objectives and projects of the Solidança Foundation, which links the socio-labor integration of people at risk of exclusion with activities related to both comprehensive waste management and the circular economy. To which the energy transition has been added as a new job niche for these people.

It is Solienergia, a project with which so far 29 vulnerable people have received training that enables them to install and maintain photovoltaic solar panels, a sector with strong demand for workers. Of them, six, three women and three men, have accessed jobs after going through the course. For Marc Pintor, director of the Solidança Foundation, “it has been opening a new door to a new area of ​​work.”

Which has continued with the creation of a maintenance brigade through which the foundation “provides services to companies that have a photovoltaic installation and in which four people, women and men, selected from among our students, work.”

Experience and a keen eye

The foundation, created in 1997, has extensive experience in detecting the opportunities that environmental services and the circular economy can provide for “people who come to us through social services and who have difficulties finding employment.” For example, in the Solidança/Roba Amiga network of own stores they sell second-hand clothing, appliances and furniture, recovered and reconditioned for sale in the foundation's workshop; In addition, they provide comprehensive waste management services to administrations and companies. «We believe that this double value of what we are trying to do is very important: having a positive social and environmental impact. Therefore, we look for these market niches that allow us to generate this double impact,” argues Pintor.

Thus, they have been able to detect the “need of many companies in the solar energy sector, which have their engineering or commercial needs covered, but “they are precisely missing someone to get on the roof and make the structure on which the plates or the maintenance of the facilities. “It is a very specific job niche.” This, together with the fact that “the qualification required is not so high that it makes it impossible to achieve”, led them to design the project and seek financing to carry it out.

The profile of the project's priority beneficiaries were “young people who have dropped out of school and vulnerable women, to break the masculinization of the sector.” The enthusiasm when signing up for the course of some, “with a great desire to be empowered to break molds, and others, who regained their interest in learning, when they signed up, was very motivating for everyone.” In fact, the people who have completed the technical training, “who belong to companies that are dedicated to this and who know the market, “and have done so with an involvement that has gone beyond their professional commitment.”

Social Innovation Award

Proof that innovation can also be, as Pintor says, “not changing everything, but adapting it”, is that Solienergía has received one of the 'la Caixa' Foundation Awards for Social Innovation, recently awarded to 12 projects among the 3,000 participants in their calls for social projects. With them they recognize projects of social entities that promote social cohesion, the fight against poverty and the inclusion of people in vulnerable situations.

For Marc Pintor, the award “is recognition of the work we do, which is not always available and is very valuable for the team. Also, because of the possibilities of dissemination so that other entities can do similar things. And, of course, because it includes a very beautiful statuette and an endowment of 15,000 euros, with which we can finance other projects.