TEA-LP and AMI collaborate on Future Females Course

By Whitney Pailman, 19 December 2022

We interviewed Mascha Moorlach, from the TEA-LP, University of Cape Town (UCT) and Patricia Maina from African Management Institute (AMI) on the development of the new Future Females course.

As part of TEA phase 2, the TEA-LP is developing a range of exciting new course offerings. The Future Females course, designed in partnership with the African Management Institute (AMI), aims to equip women working in the energy sector in entry-level positions with the skills to grow into management and leadership roles, and expand the wider talent pool from which women can be promoted. Through the above, the course aims to promote career development, leadership and managerial skills and greater gender diversity and inclusion in the energy sector.

Skills and capacity development are critical for young energy professionals. The Future Females course, which specifically focuses on women, addresses the need for greater representation and gender diversity in the sector. A gender survery conducted by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) found that access to training and skills development was the most effective way to improve women’s engagement in energy access, through the deployment of renewable energy technologies.

Palesa Nkaile, MSc Student, National University of Lesotho – Speak up to Lead course participant

Recognising the need for greater representation in the sector, AMI and UCT worked to develop the concept of the Future Females course, building on their collaboration on the Empowering Managers programme and the Speak up to Lead course previously developed. While the Empowering Managers Programme focused on women in mid-career roles with 3-5 years of experience working in the sector, Future Females is targeted at entry level professionals with 1 -2 years of experience, just entering the energy access sector or who may not necessarily have a technical energy or engineering background. Drawing from key lessons from the Empowering Managers Programme and the Off-grid Talent Initiative (OGTI) (now Energy Access Talent Initiative) Patricia and Mascha explained:

 ‘When you look at management or leadership roles, they’re very underrepresented. As we were recruiting and sourcing participants for the Empowering Managers program, which targeted mid-level, managers or supervisors in the access to energy space across the continent, we realized, by speaking and interacting with a lot of companies, that they just didn’t have enough women at that level.’ Patricia Maina

‘I can remember from OGTI already that they were saying we need to train lower managers as well. So, I think it was a very natural process. With UCT having a broad spectrum of what we can offer because of the different departments and faculties.  I was quite pleased that they came to us to see if we wanted to partner up with them on this’. Mascha Moorlach

Underrepresentation in management and leadership roles is a key challenge, which starts much earlier on in career pathways. As highlighted in the IRENA survey, gender imbalances in the energy sector are impacted by educational pathways and recruitment practices that lack representation and diversity. Extending this to young energy professionals in the sector, support earlier in the pipeline becomes crucial to address these gaps.

‘I think at the back of our mind, we were thinking how we can build the pipeline for the sector so that there are actually women who can step into those managerial roles when they do become available, because it is such a high growth sector all across the continent, and so that’s kind of what sparked this conversation’. Patricia Maina

Patricia further emphasised the importance of young women entering the sector to be able to envision and map out a long-term career pathway in the sector.

‘The pipeline also needs to be big enough to where there are women who are attracted to the sector, who see it as a viable career pathway and see it as a long-term career space for them. I believe that’s where the conversations started with Mascha and her team around, not just building the soft skills for these young women, but also providing them with the technical skills so that they can understand and see what options they might have and so just being able to pair both the technical and the soft skills, within the sector’. Patricia Maina

Incorporating hard, soft and transferable skills is a key tenet of the TEA-LP’s approach to curriculum development. It was an essential part of the curriculum design philosophy employed in phase 1 of the TEA-LP and the development of new Master’s curricula. This will continue to be a key part of Future Females and other Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses being developed in TEA phase 2.

The UCT and AMI co-design process

Ultimately the idea is to have one cohesive learning journey and provide participants in the course with a seamless learning experience. The Future Females course essentially combines an introductory understanding of the energy sector with management, finance and communication modules. The course will start with an introduction to the energy sector, which is the more technical aspect of the course and will weave in soft skills components throughout the modules. These modules include project management, finance and communications. This entails connecting the technical and non-technical aspects and assessments that integrate knowledge from the different modules.

‘So, what I’m very excited about in this future female’s course is the introduction to the sector – to electricity and off grid sector. Just to have an entry level understanding of generation of transmission of distribution – some pros and cons – so that they know a little bit more about energy and where it comes from and how it’s being used”.  Mascha Moorlach

Communication is another key aspect that AMI will bring to the course design, drawing from the Speak up to Lead course, where they partnered with UCT during TEA phase 1 to bring the course to Master’s students and staff at partner universities.

‘So, we are hoping to craft what would essentially be a communications module, to really draw from the strengths of the Speak up to Lead course and be able to equip these young women with the confidence to communicate effectively – whether it’s within their teams or in how they relate with their managers or other senior leaders in their workplace. I think those are the two that I would say, of course we would cover other skills, but I would say communication and confidence are really two of the ones that filtered to the top.” Patricia Maina

Project management and finance would be another key value add of the course.

Then we will also be incorporating project management and planning, because we feel that is a key skill, they would be able to apply, starting off as part of a project team and hopefully as they grow in their careers, actually managing projects. Then we are also looking at including a finance module that would support them as they prepare to be in the kinds of roles where they would have a budget they would be required to manage. Patricia Maina

To complement the finance aspects AMI would bring to the course, UCT could provide a course on risk management, either financial risk management or risk management more generally.

Promotion of the course, selection and delivery

The Future Females course will offer an opportunity for candidates to be nominated by their managers and for candidates to nominate themselves.

‘We do expect to do open calls, essentially where we do calls out on social media, calls out to companies that we’ve partnered with in the past or have been clients in the past. We have this new, exciting program, you (can) nominate somebody. If it’s out in the public domain, like on social media, just asking potential candidates to just nominate themselves and apply for it.’ Patricia Maina 

The course which will be delivered over 6 months will be primarily virtual as the aim to open it to women across the continent.

“So, it would be a virtual program, that would incorporate our best practices when it comes to online learning or virtual learning. So, there will be that component of accessing courses and tools via the online platform. Then also engaging in virtual workshops or webinars that would be highly interactive and engaging, whether participants aren’t just sitting to listen to a Zoom (callbut are also participating through breakout rooms and different kinds of activities to keep them engaged.” Patricia Maina

Reflecting on the importance and timeliness of the course Patricia concluded:

“Representation matters, and I think that’s what we are trying to get at by offering this opportunity for these young women to be able to have a seat at the table, essentially. Because it starts with preparing them at the early start of their careers – to build on their skills so that they’re able to step into successive management roles and seniority levels, to get to the point where they are actually, seated at the table and can have a say because by eliminating or underrepresenting women, there are important voices that are being excluded from the conversation.” Patricia Maina

For more information about the Future Female course, which will be launched in 2023, see our website and LinkedIn page for future updates.