November 8, 2021
Electric batteries constitute the core technology for decarbonising transport and powering the growth of the electric vehicle market. The European Commission estimates that over the next four years battery industries in the European Union could employ up to 800,000 people, with 150,000 of those in France.
Skills availability and access is vital if businesses in the industry are to be competitive. So how do we meet the growing need for skills and a qualified workforce for the sector?
Gilles Moreau, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Verkor, tells us more about the training challenges facing the sector, and the solutions to overcome them.
What is the current situation in terms of training for the battery sector in 2021?
The energy transition is bringing about a major transition from traditional trades to “green jobs”. The BCG (Boston Consulting Group) predicts that between now and 2030 jobs related to ICE manufacturing and supply will drop significantly, while jobs in the electric car industry, including recycling, will increase sharply.
It also puts the number of employees who will need specialised training at 2.4 million, 225,000 of whom will require vocational retraining to move, for example, from the automotive assembly line to battery-cell production. (Source: “Is E-mobility a Green Boost for European Automotive Jobs?” – BCG)
For Gilles Moreau, “as it stands, the training offer for the battery sector is not up to scratch. There are not enough engineering schools in France and in Europe covering electrochemistry to meet the needs of factories that will be built. We need more skills in this area, more workers who are qualified and specialised in batteries. Training is key in all of this.”
The goal is ambitious: a Europe that is self-sufficient in e-mobility and electric battery manufacturing. The three battery gigafactory builds planned in France between now and 2024 adds urgency to the sector’s training needs.
So what are the solutions?
A European battery academy
Rising to the challenge of “made in Europe” batteries, EIT InnoEnergy signed a partnership agreement with the French government and with the French industrial training providers, OPCO 2i and OPCO Mobilités, in July 2021 to form the EBA Academy in France.
The purpose of the academy is to fast-track vocational training in the battery sector via a training services platform created for and with businesses in the industry. Some 150,000 people can be trained through this structure. According to Christine Durand, Learning Solutions Manager at EIT InnoEnergy France, “the EBA Academy comes at a time of imbalance between a battery market that is set to grow exponentially between now and 2025, and a shortage of talents to support this growth. We needed to come up with an innovative solution to pool existing training, and move fast to create new content.
The EBA Academy currently offers 30 training modules for qualification levels ranging from senior technician to senior executive. Training covers the entire value chain, battery fundamentals, as well as aspects relating to the battery market, innovation, electrochemistry, the battery management system, and more.
To accelerate the process, EIT InnoEnergy has joined up with two French training operators, APAVE (145 expert training centres and trainers) and IFP TRAINING (around 100 full-time trainers and 600 guest trainers), and other structures will be joining the EBA Academy.
Verkor is actively involved in the EBA Academy programme. “We are the EBA Academy’s biggest client. We know EIT InnoEnergy well, as it is one of our first investors. This means the EBA can start its programme, giving Verkor the opportunity to design useful and bespoke training to meet our needs. Verkor is both a client and supplier”, Moreau says.
Training at the VIC (Verkor Innovation Centre)
Created by Verkor, the VIC will be operational from 2022 and has three core functions: innovation, manufacturing and training. It will have its own training centre for training a new generation of experts in the battery sector, giving them access to the resources and facilities of a state-of-the-art research laboratory.
The VIC training offer will support the automotive sector’s industrial transition to electric, and the creation of its battery value chain, from raw materials to recycling.
Gilles Moreau adds that “the VIC training centre is an opportunity for Verkor to give specialised training on batteries, upskill people working in the sector, and train our internal staff. The VIC is a 4.0 Industry. The training centre will support vocational retraining for the energy transition. Thanks to expert mentoring, trainees will benefit from specialist knowledge and experience.”
Who will be trained at the VIC?
“All profiles, from engineer to technician to operator. Our goal is to train all junior positions, as well as candidates for vocational retraining without which the energy transition is not possible. The VIC training centre will be accessible and open to people outside Verkor’s teams.”
What are the next steps for the VIC training centre?
“Next year we’ll test out a more general training programme for our engineering, industrial safety, quality and support function staff not specialised in batteries. We’ll start testing this year in fact by building in the battery culture.
Once the VIC is ready at the end of next year, we can start offering more applied and hands-on training for operators and technicians. Like our internal training, we will trial this training using the machines in our laboratory, and tools including augmented and virtual reality.
At the end of these two years of developing training content, we can start ramping up our training programme.”
Why choose Grenoble as a training hub?
Grenoble has involved in energy transition for centuries, starting in 1864 when Aristide Bergès invented hydroelectric power in Isère. Grenoble is also a hub for global leaders in hydroelectricity, such as GE Electric Renewable Energy, Air Liquide and CEA Liten, and for the world leader in energy management, Schneider Electric. Grenoble is on the cutting edge of energy management and smart grids (digital technologies and electricity), and is an ideal environment for training in the battery sector.
Grenoble also has a very attractive location, and trainees can clear their heads and get some fresh air in the surrounding mountains.
The bottom line is that specialised training in the battery sector is essential.
As the number one client of the EBA Academy and the creator of the VIC training centre, Verkor wants to be a key driver of training and skills development for a sector that is so strategic for both France and Europe.
“Our role in vocational retraining is clear and consistent with our values. The ecological transition is what motivates us, and it won’t happen without transforming certain trades and professions. Verkor absolutely has a role to play, and it’s a role we want to play”, says Gilles Moreau.