Escalating Shortage of Skilled Labor Threatens the Solar Sector

Solar module manufacturing capacity is expected to reach ~95 GW by the end of 2025


The landscape of domestic solar manufacturing is undergoing rapid transformation as new facilities emerge throughout the nation. This expansion cannot successfully progress without a proficient workforce capable of operating and maintaining cutting-edge solar cell and module production machinery and technologies.

The government has implemented various incentives and policies to encourage investment in the solar manufacturing segment. While this has undoubtedly boosted the sector, it has also revealed the lack of skilled labor.

According to Mercom India Research’s State of Solar PV Manufacturing in India report, the solar photovoltaic module manufacturing capacity is expected to reach ~95 GW by the end of 2025.

The industry’s rapid growth has outpaced the availability of specialized training programs and educational courses to meet the demand for a skilled workforce. As a result, there is a significant mismatch between the skills required by the industry and those of the available workforce.

Commenting on the topic, Arpit Sharma, COO of the Skill Council for Green Jobs, said, “With the technology evolving rapidly, we have a shortage of skilled labor in the module manufacturing segment. There will be a requirement of 30,000 skill-certified human resources in the manufacturing segment by the end of FY 2024, but we envisage that only 10,000 skill-certified jobs will be added by the end of this financial year.”

One of the primary reasons for the shortage of skilled labor in solar module and cell manufacturing is the sector’s relative nascency in India.

Speaking on the issue, a senior executive from one of the leading India-based solar cell manufacturers said, “It’s the largest crisis of sorts, especially for cell manufacturing, because it’s a complex affair, and the trained workforce is very limited. Say if you are expanding from 4 GW to 40 GW, you will require a skilled and trained workforce. Simultaneously technological changes are rapidly taking place. The workforce is trained in multicrystalline, and there is now a requirement for Mono and TOPCon, and all these are happening at once. It’s coming to a head altogether.”

“On the one hand, you have the scale; on the other hand, technology changes against the backdrop of a much smaller production base. The only way out is to train them. We should find ways and means of training when we recruit the workforce. The best way out is to develop and train a talent pool,” the executive said.

The executive feels China is better positioned to cope with the technological changes as they have an efficient workforce compared to India.

Solar module and cell manufacturing involve complex processes, including fabricating solar cells, assembly of modules, quality control, and maintenance.

The processes require specialized technical knowledge and expertise in areas such as electrical engineering, materials science, and semiconductor technology. However, India’s existing education and training infrastructure has struggled to produce an adequate number of skilled professionals with expertise in these specific domains.

With a significantly small pool of talented workforce, there is intense competition among solar manufacturing companies to attract and retain skilled workers. This competition drives up the demand for skilled labor, further exacerbating the shortage.

Speaking on similar lines, Asif Khan, Director of the Solar Division, Servokon, said that companies are facing challenges in finding enough skilled workers due to the rapid growth and specialization of the sector. The demand for engineers, technicians, and other professionals with expertise in the solar cell and module manufacturing segment has increased considerably.

“The pace of technological advancements can outstrip the availability of training and educational programs that focus on the latest module manufacturing technologies. Educational institutions and training providers may take time to develop curricula and courses that align with the evolving technological landscape. This lag can contribute to a shortage of skilled workers with up-to-date knowledge,” Khan added.

Way out of the impending crisis

Currently, only a limited number of training programs or educational institutions in the country offer comprehensive courses or certifications specially tailored for solar manufacturing.

Khan highlights the need to create a synergy between the companies and the educational institutions. “To address the lack of skilled labor in the domestic module manufacturing segment, there should be a robust collaboration between academic institutions and vocational training centers to develop specialized programs focusing on solar module manufacturing. This can include hands-on training, theoretical coursework, and internships or apprenticeships to provide practical experience,” he said.

“Stakeholders across the industry should foster collaboration between the industry players and academic institutions to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Establishing research and development centers or sponsoring research projects can help develop expertise and attract skilled talent,” Khan added.

Industry stakeholders have started taking steps to bridge the skills gap, with efforts underway to establish dedicated training programs and vocational courses focused on solar module and cell manufacturing.

Additionally, partnerships between solar manufacturing companies and educational institutions are being fostered to ensure the curriculum aligns with industry requirements.

Stressing the need for training, Khan said that older skills may become outdated or less relevant as technology evolves. This can create a gap between the talent acquired by the existing workforce and the skill required for modern module manufacturing.

“If the workers are not adequately trained or upskilled, they may struggle to keep up with the changing technology leading to a shortage of skilled labor,” Khan noted.

Moreover, creating awareness about the opportunities and career prospects in the solar module and cell manufacturing segment is crucial.

Sharma highlighted the importance of training in the module manufacturing segment, “Many educational institutions are affiliated with us, and they are providing training to the workforce employed in the module manufacturing segment. These institutes include IIT Mandi, Jaipur Engineering College, Government ITI Chandigarh, ADS Foundation in Gujarat, NERD Education Society in Coimbatore, and the Gandhigram Rural Institute in Tamil Nadu. We also have a tie-up with the Tata Power Skill Development Institute in India (TPSDI) to train those in the manufacturing segment. All TPSDIs have been empaneled by us, and they are running our courses.”

Still, a significant number of young graduates remain unaware of the vast potential and employment opportunities available in the solar industry. By raising awareness of the sector’s future growth, more young individuals can be encouraged to pursue education and training in relevant fields, contributing to the skilled labor pool required to meet the industry’s growing demands.

Avinash Hiranandani, Global CEO and Managing Director at RenewSys said, “We have created a training center where we give them 10-15 days of training before putting them on the shop floor. We also provide on-the-job training. This is how we are building our workforce.”

“We started a new unit in Patalganga in Maharashtra but couldn’t find skilled workforce for it, as experience is not readily available. You can’t shift the trained workforce from one facility to another. The only available option is to train them according to your needs. We give training on the job, and we also provide them with classroom training which goes on for nearly a month. The rapidly changing technological landscape is also one of the reasons why training is vital to cater to the job demands in this sector.”

Pushpendra Samadhiya, National Head-Sales at Saatvik Green Energy, feels that while expanding capacities, it is essential to acknowledge the labor shortage first and then work on training individuals on the new technologies.

He said, “For us, quality assurance is essential. We are now moving from M2 to M10 cells and are also using TOPCon cells. So given this background of a rapidly changing technological landscape, training becomes all the more critical. There is a need to increase awareness about renewables from the school stage. Professionals should be aware of it when they enter technical institutions and colleges. Currently, we find that the technical workforce that gets into the companies also doesn’t have up-to-date knowledge of the sector, for which we have to train them.”

While India’s solar module and cell manufacturing segment have witnessed rapid growth and expansion, the shortage of skilled labor remains a significant challenge.

“While most companies strive to provide intensive training to new hires, this approach is not sustainable at the scale required. I believe it is essential for the government to take a proactive role by establishing a ‘National Renewable Skills Mission.’ This mission could be designed to develop a skilled workforce on a large scale, aligning with the objectives and visions of the administration for 2030 and beyond. It should have well-defined long-term goals, clear policies, and a structured pathway for developing a substantial pool of skilled workers, to support the success of other missions in the renewable sector,” said Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group.

“By bridging the skill gap and workforce shortage, the renewable energy industry can become one of the leading creators of job opportunities at a time when graduates are extremely concerned about job displacement due to artificial intelligence,” Prabhu added.