GIZ, in collaboration with the Skills Initiative For Africa (SIFA)/Auda-Nepad project, on 28 November 2023 hosted 40–45 visitors from various African countries and Europe for a tour of the ACRA (Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Academy) in Johannesburg, due to its status as a SIFA-recognised Centre of Excellence for all Africa.

ACRA MD Grant Laidlaw presents to 40–45 international delegates. Image supplied by RACA Journal

ACRA MD Grant Laidlaw presents to 40–45 international delegates. Image supplied by RACA Journal

As one of the leading HVAC&R academies in Africa, and responsible for 90 to 95% of sector training in South Africa according to ACRA MD Grant Laidlaw, the objective of the tour was to explore means by which ACRA’s HVAC&R training facility could be replicated in member countries of the project to stimulate the industry in those countries, and indeed their entire economies.

The project, initiated in 2018 through a collaboration between the German government and the African Union Commission, aims to address the dual challenge of high youth unemployment and a shortage of skilled professionals.

After a presentation by Laidlaw on the foundation and workings of the academy, the delegates were given a tour of the all-important workshop where students gain practical experience. The presentation highlighted the importance of private sector engagement in fostering partnerships and raising professional profiles.

ACRA has embraced a departure from reliance on traditional academic curricula. Instead, it actively seeks projects and innovative solutions, considering these real-world applications as the main qualification for learners. This approach is seen as a critical step in preparing learners for the dynamic challenges of their respective industries.

ACRA’s future plans include the construction of a new facility. Despite challenges and delays due to red tape, the commitment to expanding technical education so as to contribute to a skilled workforce was evident. ACRA shares the vision for empowering individuals through technical education, contributing to economic development, and fostering a culture of continuous learning.

By Eamonn Ryan