Article: Empowering India’s green workforce: Bharat Bhut sheds light on Goldi Solar's impactful initiatives


Empowering India’s green workforce: Bharat Bhut sheds light on Goldi Solar's impactful initiatives

In this exclusive interview with Bharat Bhut, we explore Goldi Solar's role in addressing skill-demand gaps, pioneering workforce development, and championing sustainability in the dynamic renewable energy industry.
Empowering India’s green workforce: Bharat Bhut sheds light on Goldi Solar's impactful initiatives

Bharat Bhut, the Co-founder and Director of Goldi Solar, is a visionary pioneer in the dynamic realm of renewable energy. Hailing from the vibrant city of Surat, his journey from humble beginnings to pioneering sustainable solutions has been nothing short of inspiring. Under his stewardship, Goldi Solar swiftly ascended to a prominent position in the solar industry. Based in Surat, the company has solidified its position as a frontrunner in the solar industry, specialising in manufacturing high-quality solar modules at competitive prices. In this exciting conversation with Bharat, we unlock exclusive insights on the renewable energy landscape in India, it’s squill requirements and how Goldi Solar is championing initiatives to build a resilient workforce for this growing industry.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

Given the ambitious target of 500GW by 2030 set by the Indian government, how does the renewable energy sector currently address the skill-demand gap, and what role does it play in shaping the workforce landscape?

In the renewable energy sector, we're part of a vast ecosystem that covers everything from manufacturing to the deployment of products like solar panels, which play a critical role in supplying clean energy to the national grid. At Goldi Solar, we're deeply rooted in this landscape, taking on roles in manufacturing, engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC), as well as in project development. Manufacturing has always been our core focus since we started in 2011 with a modest 10-megawatt capacity. Today, we're proud to have grown this capacity to 3.3 gigawatts, and we're on track to hit 4 gigawatts by March. This growth journey has shown us the wide range of skills needed in our sector, from electronics and mechanics to expertise in Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, not to mention the need for skilled coders.

Our involvement doesn't stop at manufacturing. We're deeply engaged in EPC deployment, which includes project management, commissioning, and operations and maintenance (O&M). Each phase of project development requires specific skills, and we recognise the challenge of attracting talent to our sector.

The renewable energy sector, being relatively new and constantly evolving, especially in the areas of solar and wind energy, often sees a gap in skilled professionals, as the current workforce gravitates more towards established industries.

To tackle this skill-demand gap, we've taken proactive steps by setting up skill development centres in collaboration with the government. We understand the urgency of this matter, and the government is on the same page, rolling out various schemes and incentives to boost skill development within the renewable energy sector. This partnership is crucial for us as we strive to build a workforce that can not only meet our current needs but also contribute to the sector's future growth.

What specific skills do individuals need to cultivate to secure employment in the renewable energy sector, and how is the industry adapting to the evolving skill requirements? Are the existing talent training programs in India equipped to meet India’s target, and what improvements or innovations are necessary to align with this vision?

To thrive in the renewable energy sector, specifically within the burgeoning solar panel manufacturing industry in India, individuals must acquire a diverse set of skills. The production of solar panels and their components, including glass, aluminium, EBA (Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate) back sheets, and other polymer products, demands the expertise of electronic engineers, as well as chemical and electrical engineers. These professionals are crucial for handling the specialized requirements of solar panel manufacturing, from the processing of raw materials to the intricate aspects of production.

A significant portion of the manufacturing process is reliant on sophisticated equipment monitored and operated through Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. This technological aspect underscores the need for engineers who are adept at managing such machinery, further emphasizing the requirement for electronic and communication engineers. Beyond operational skills, there's a growing demand for data analysts and quality engineers. These roles are essential for overseeing the manufacturing process, ensuring the quality of the solar panels, and analyzing production data for efficiency improvements.

However, the transition into renewable energy sectors like solar and wind energy presents a challenge due to the skill gap in the current workforce. Traditional engineering education in India has predominantly focused on established industries like steel and oil, leaving a void in specialised training for emerging sectors. Recognising this gap, some universities have begun to introduce solar and wind energy programs, offering both comprehensive courses and short-term training sessions aimed at equipping new talent with the necessary skills for the renewable energy industry.

The need for skilled and experienced manpower in renewable energy manufacturing is pronounced, given the industry's rapid growth and ambitious targets. Currently, the sector faces a shortage of skilled labour, requiring companies to invest significant time and resources into training new hires. Ideally, if candidates already possess foundational knowledge and skills in renewable energy, the onboarding process could be streamlined, significantly reducing the time and cost associated with training.

To address these challenges and support the industry's expansion, educational institutions must align their curricula with the needs of the renewable energy sector. By offering specialised training programs in solar and wind energy, universities and technical institutes can provide the industry with a steady stream of qualified professionals. For instance, the staffing requirements for operating a one-gigawatt production line illustrate the scale of the challenge: approximately 800 trained individuals are needed. If these workers require extensive training, the lead time before a facility can commence full-scale production extends significantly, impeding the pace of industry growth.

In summary, fostering partnerships between the renewable energy sector and educational institutions is crucial for developing a skilled workforce capable of meeting India's renewable energy targets. By innovating training programs and integrating specific courses on solar and wind energy, the gap between the industry's skill requirements and the workforce's capabilities can be bridged.

This alignment is not only vital for the sector's expansion but also essential for accelerating India's transition to renewable energy sources.

How is Goldi Solar actively contributing to skill development to support India's vision, and what unique approaches or initiatives set Goldi Solar apart in this endeavour? To date, how many individuals have your organisation successfully trained through its skill development initiatives, and what percentage of them have made a significant impact within the organisation?

Goldi Solar has proactively aligned with the Prime Minister's vision to enhance skill development within India's renewable energy sector, focusing on initiatives that underscore its commitment to meeting the industry's ambitious objectives. A standout aspect of Goldi Solar's approach is its strategic partnerships with both private and government institutes, designed to foster a skilled workforce tailored to the renewable energy sector's needs.

One of the key collaborations has been with the L&T Public Charitable Trust, through which Goldi Solar has established a skill development centre. This partnership leverages the Trust's existing facilities and expertise in skill development, providing a robust platform for training. Additionally, Goldi Solar has initiated a venture with the Inland Technical Training Institute in Navsari, further amplifying its training capabilities.

Expanding its educational outreach, Goldi Solar has also partnered with the Kaushalya Skill University. This collaboration involved designing specialized courses that are now offered across various institutes under the university's umbrella, ensuring a widespread impact on skill development relevant to the renewable energy sector. This move not only broadens the availability of trained professionals but also underscores Goldi Solar's pioneering role in industry-specific education. Moreover, Goldi Solar has engaged with the Shree Ramkrishna Export (SRK) Knowledge Foundation, contributing to curriculum development and training delivery. This partnership, alongside the one with Anil Naik Technical Training Center, reflects Goldi Solar's innovative approach to creating educational pathways that support the sector's growth.

To date, Goldi Solar's skill development initiatives have seen significant success. The company has enrolled 170 individuals in its training programs, with 90 of these trainees completing their training and joining Goldi Solar's manufacturing operations. This achievement not only highlights Goldi Solar's dedication to nurturing talent but also its effective contribution to building a skilled workforce that supports India's renewable energy ambitions.

What are Goldi Solar's current hiring plans, progress in recruiting resources, and the strategies being implemented to achieve the goal of hiring 5,000 individuals by FY 2025? Additionally, what has been the impact of your hiring initiatives on tribal communities?

Our approach to hiring and community engagement is a testament to our commitment to sustainable growth and social responsibility. Situated in the southern part of Gujarat, near a tribal belt extending 40km from its factory, Goldi Solar has embarked on a journey since 2010-2011 to harness the potential of the local tribal workforce. The company's initiative to train and employ individuals from the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in nearby tribal areas, particularly from the Dang district, is a strategic move to uplift the community while addressing its workforce needs.

The company has devised a unique strategy to bridge skill gaps in manufacturing by establishing a Skill Center equipped with pilot production lines. This facility enables trainees to gain hands-on experience in critical manufacturing processes, including solar panel assembly and defect identification through infrared scanning. This investment in skill development ensures that before joining any manufacturing entity, individuals are well-versed in essential skills, significantly benefiting Goldi Solar's production capabilities.

A significant portion of Goldi Solar's blue-collar workforce, over 40%, comes from the tribal communities, reflecting the company's commitment to inclusive growth.

Furthermore, the workforce composition at Goldi Solar is diverse, with around 20-30% engaged in white-collar roles across sales, development, finance, and other sectors, underscoring a balanced employment approach.

To achieve its ambitious goal of hiring 5,000 individuals by FY 2025, we have implemented robust HR policies and flexible work arrangements. Recognising the evolving dynamics of the job market, the company has adopted flexible pay policies and remote working options to attract talent from metropolitan areas and across India. These strategic HR policies have not only made Goldi Solar an attractive workplace for diverse talent but have also fortified the company's capacity to expand and innovate.

With the renewable energy sector experiencing dynamic changes, are there any upcoming plans by your organisation to introduce new skilling programs? How does the company adapt its initiatives to align with evolving industry requirements?

As we navigate through the dynamic shifts in the renewable energy sector, our organization, Goldi Solar, is deeply invested in the future of solar energy in India. This commitment drives us to continually explore and introduce new skilling programs that align with the evolving needs of the industry.  I see the expansion of our R&D capabilities and the development of new products within the solar ecosystem as critical areas where future job roles and skill sets will emerge.

The deployment of solar panels, now reaching gigawatt scales annually, underscores the increasing demand for specialized skills in research and development. This includes understanding the nuances of solar power generation across various geographies and radiation levels. We're looking at a future where the expertise to innovate and improve solar solutions will be invaluable.

Moreover, the operational and maintenance (O&M) side of solar power plants is another area ripe for skill development. With a significant portion of our projects extending to residential and commercial rooftops, and water pumping systems, the scope for skilled professionals in after-sales service, O&M, and environmental impact assessment is vast. Considering the national mission to install solar panels on one crore houses, the need for skilled manpower in these areas cannot be overstated.

At Goldi Solar, we're adopting a dual approach to addressing these needs. On one hand, we're focusing on the developmental phase of solar projects, which includes the enhancement of project management and data analytics skills. On the other, we're also looking at the post-deployment phase, ensuring that we have the right skills in place for maintenance and service, which are crucial for the longevity and efficiency of solar installations.

I strongly believe in the power of collaboration within our industry to address the skill gaps effectively. If other companies join us in this initiative, we can collectively develop a comprehensive training and development program that benefits not just individual companies but the entire solar industry and, by extension, our country. This is not just about one company's growth; it's about building a resilient, skilled workforce that can propel the entire sector forward, ensuring that we're all prepared to meet the challenges and leverage the opportunities that lie ahead in the renewable energy landscape.

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Topics: Skilling, Learning & Development, Leadership

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