Profiles of some of the Solar Micro Technicians trained by and working with TecAp
We have trained and graduated 76 rural youth as solar installers and repairers. They are certified by the National Technical Institute (INATEC). They are youth from low income families who would not have been able to obtain this education without a scholarship. The entity that provided scholarships in 2015 was the First Solar Corporate Charitable Fund of the Toledo Community Foundation. This training allows a graduate to earn by finding clients who desire rooftops systems and also earn by installing their system. In addition, the micro-technician earns by repairing systems and selling replacement parts. Finally, they can earn by selling smaller solar powered items.
To show the diversity of the youth trained, we provide profiles of a few of the 76 trained to date.
José Santos López Vásquez, 29, is a man with a passion for studying who said, “One never stops learning.” Jose is currently finishing up his last year of schooling at Universidad Martin Lutero where he studies Engineering Management of Agriculture. Jose and his family work in coffee farming and are members of a cooperative called San Jose de la Luz. Jose also works as a technician for the coop.
Jose was chosen by the president of his cooperative to partake in the TecAp solar systems course. Jose gladly accepted the scholarship. Jose admits that the course was a little difficult in the beginning as it contained a lot of new technical information, but Jose proudly admits, “I like process of learning new things, and that’s why I’m always studying.”
After completing the solar course, Jose has worked with solar panel installations and repairs. These jobs have allowed him to travel to other communities in the region of Murra, including to El Paraisito and Quebrada Negra.
Not only is Jose certified as a solar panel technician, but he is also a microfranchisee who sells solar lamps. With his dedication to succeed, he sold his first solar lamp only one week after having received the products. Jose obtains new customers by traveling to various communities looking for prospect buyers. Since a common problem in this region is a lack of money, Jose reports that people often tell him that they are interested in purchasing his products but will not get paid until a certain day in the future. Instead of being let down that he did not succeed in selling a product, Jose returns on the day indicated by the potential consumer to close the transaction.
Jose is persistent, disciplined and always is sure to save a portion of his income. The rest, he says, is allocated towards his studies and other personal uses. Jose remains active as a participant in the TecAp program not only for the income he receives, but for the opportunity to provide solar powered light for students to be able to study and do their homework.
Elix Antonio Meneses, 21, is a lively, forward thinking young man. Elix lives with his father, mother and nephew in a community of San Juan del Río Coco named San Antonio Abajo. Neither of Elix’s parents obtained any schooling but, with their support, Elix is finishing up his last year of his high school degree.
Elix and his family are members of a local cooperative called José Alfredo Zeledón (JAZ). When not studying, Elix works on his own piece of land where he cultivates coffee, which he sells to the JAZ cooperative. It was through JAZ that Elix learned about the opportunity for scholarships to participate in TecAp’s solar course.
Before working with TecAp, Elix didn’t know much about solar power, but that he was curious to learn more about it. When reflecting on the course, Elix said learning how to install and repair solar panels was not difficult as one simply has to follow a sequence of
steps with care and caution to complete the task. By participating in the course, he saw a way to learn new information that would not increase opportunities to earn income, but also assist members in his community needed to have their solar panels repaired or new ones installed.
Although the economy in the region has not been very strong, Elix has done very well selling his services. Elix also accepted the opportunity to sell solar lamps with TecAp. Being involved as a microfranchisee as well as a micro technician brings him more money. When he finds those who cannot qualify for a loan to buy a system, they may be able to buy small solar products and still obtain light. Elix also enjoys continuing to work with TecAp in gratitude for the educational support given though the solar panel course.
Luis Ponce, 42, is one of the older “young people” that TecAp has trained. The micro technician program started with the idea of training youth. However, some older persons from very isolated communities stepped up to take the training opportunity when none of the youth of their community were ready for the challenge of walking. Luis arose a couple of hours after midnight and walked in the dark about 4 hours to get to the bus that then would take him to the town of Murra where he changed buses to get to the training. TecAp admired his perseverance and knew that he had the drive to make agood micro technician.
Luis Ponce lives in a community outside of Murra that neither has conventional electricity nor cellphone reception. To provide for his family, Luis does what most people do for work in Nicaragua—work in agriculture. Fortunately, Luis and his family own a piece of land that they work on year round. Luis keeps very busy as a husband, father, worker and leader. Luis’s kind demeanor and forward thinking have helped him maintain a leadership role within his community for the past fourteen years in which he serves as a liaison between the mayor and his community. He also is a volunteer motivator to inspire community residents to work and take on new challenges.
Always thinking of the needs of his community, Luis declares “working with TecAp is a way to help my community live in a cleaner, healthier environment though solar power.”
It had been more than a couple of decades since Luis has been inside a classroom when he began solar energy training course. He remembers wondering if he had what it might take to keep up with his fellow students who were less than half his age. “I was glad that I could still learn a technical subject like solar energy. I found that I was able to share from my experience things that the younger people did not know about construction and repair.”
After the training, neighbors sought out for his services in installing and repairing solar panels. When a coffee plague stretched through Nicaragua, causing most farmers to lose a lot of their crops, it resulted in a lot less income for the harvest season. There has not been as much extra money this year as there would normally be. But Luis found the people who had been less affected less and continued to sell rooftop systems.
After several microtechnicians finished their solar systems course with TecAp, TecAp expanded its services to them by giving them the option to sell solar lamps in their communities. Luis gladly took this opportunity and currently sells solar lamps in his community while anticipating people having the economic resources to buy solar panels.
Luis says “I enjoys being a part of TecAp because we microtechnicians and microfranchisees receive the support, encouragement, and prompt delivery of spare parts and products.” Luis says “the income I receive from working with TecAp has me support my children’s studies as well as hire others to work with me when I have more than enough work for my family.” Luis is eager to continue moving forward with TecAp and with the development of surrounding communities.
Francisco Moises Barreto
Francisco, 19, is a unique TecAp program member. Francisco’s community as well as surrounding communities has conventional energy, but Francisco’s past work experience is with solar power. Francisco was exposed to working with solar panel through panel installation and repairs through his cousin, who has his own business in this field, for approximately one year. Although his work opportunities were not consistent during this year, he was able to learn many fundamentals of installations and maintenance.
Francisco lives in Las Piedras, a community of Quilali, with his father, mother, three siblings and three nieces and nephews. Francisco’s entire family works in agriculture tend to a private piece of land where they grow beans, corn and coffee; however, one of Francisco’s brothers also works for the mayor of this area. It was this brother that learned of the TecAp course and enrolled Francisco in it. Francisco says that when he found out about being enrolled in the course that he was excited, especially since he had some relevant knowledge going into it.
Francisco says that after having received his TecAp certification, he has acquired more knowledge about solar energy, developed a better and more respected reputation within communities of Quilali and he earns more income. In just two months after having graduated, Francisco installed his first solar panel system. Although Francisco has not yet sold a solar panel system, he is one of TecAp’s top technicians in performing installations and maintenance.
Francisco, a team player who places a strong emphasis on communication, feels proud to be called upon by his peers for installation and repair guidance. Francisco not only feels appreciated by other microtechnicians, but by TecAp as well who he says treats him well and does not rush him when working. Francisco is eager to continue to work with TecAp and cherishes every opportunity given to him to learn a new skill.
Bismark Morazán, 36, lives in a community Quilali called San Bartolo. Bismark has made a positive contribution to the TecAp program after he graduated. Just as TecAp is appreciative of Bismark’s loyalty and hard work in the program, Bismark says that he feels that TecAp is family as it has helped him grow personally and professionally in addition to helping him to support his two children.
Bismark is different from many other microtechnicians in that before taking TecAp’s solar systems course to learn to install, repair and maintain solar panels, Bismark had worked installing solar panels. Bismark said that he was self-taught and although he had worked in the field before, it is not the same as having formal, scientific training.
Bismark eagerly joined the course as he was in a state of needing to find ways to increase his personal income. Through becoming a certified solar panel technician with TecAp, he has been able to receive the scientific knowledge that presented him with an opportunity, to improve the natural environment , and to work with other aspects of renewable energy. Most importantly, Bismark likes this type of work. With this enjoyment, he has the motivation to continue to learn and do well.
Bismark has the opportunity to work with TecAp as a microfranchisee by selling solar products larger solar systems. Bismark, adventurous and passionate, gladly accepted the opportunity. Bismark has sold and installed many systems so he serves as one TecAp’s top micro technicians. Bismark is proud to work with TecAp and to train other youth technicians on-the-job to be better installers. He stands behind TecAp’s high quality products and their product guarantee. His enthusiasm is contagious. With his time working at TecAp he reports that has been able to earn more in one day than he made in two weeks with his previous job working as a water pump technician. With this income, Bismark has purchased tools as well as supporting his children’s studies.
Juan Quiñonez is a young man, 20, who lives with partner and their two young children in the community Chachagua, located many kilometers from Murra. Within the community of Chachagua, there is no conventional electricity or phone service. To reach the town of Murra to purchase necessary products and services, one must walk five hours on a mountainous terrain as there is no transportation between the two locations.
Juan became involved with TecAp by participating in the course to become trained as a solar system technician. Juan’s desire to learn about solar energy and to change the lives of his community and family, all of which he describes as being very poor. While in the course, he was very quiet but clearly excelled in the frequent tests. However, after the course, he was able to shed his shyness and turned into a champion in educating rural people about solar electricity and encouraging them to buy systems.
Everyone even Juan was pleasantly surprised by his transformation. After becoming certified as a solar system technician, Juan decided also to sell solar lamps since there was not a microfranchisee in his zone. The very day that Juan received lamps to sell, he set out in search for clients. As both a micro technician and microfranchisee, Juan now offers products and services that can be tailored to different classes of consumers. Typically when there is a little extra money to spend during harvest season, families who own their own land are purchasers of solar systems whereas families who own no land and have very little money purchase solar lamps.
When a person wants to borrow to buy a rooftop system, Juan actively seeks out a loan officer and guides him up and down the terrain to the family. He helps to find additional information that may be needed to more quickly process the loan, knowing that the family is now anxious to experience having electricity for the first time in their lives. As soon as the loan if ready, Juan eagerly works with a fellow technician to install the system as rapidly as they can.
Juan is a gentle, hardworking man. To find clients or attend TecAp meetings, Juan walks up to five hours in eagerness to participate in the program. He says he wants to continue being a part of a program that helps him provide a better future for his family and community. Juan openly expresses his desire to learn about how to do hybrid installations of solar power and conventional electricity. He is eager to learn about other trainings that IDEAS may offer in the future.
Microtechnician Denis Martinez Arauz
Denis Martinez, 30, is from the Panali community in the municipality of Quilalí. While working as an entrepeneur, Denis is also enrolled in the accelerated secondary program. He is always looking for alternatives to help himself and his wife and child move forward.
Denis is a Christian man who leads a youth group at his church. Even though his community has electricity, he worries about those adjacent communities without it.
He became aware of the TecAp microfranchise through the pastor at his church. Denis used to work in construction but currently works with TecAp selling solar-powered products and promoting rooftop solar systems in surrounding communities.
He is excited about selling small solar-powered products. Every so often, he travels to Esteli to pick up products and/or make deposits. Denis takes advantage that his brother drives a truck to move from one community to another offering his solar-powered products and rooftop systems, as well as installing solar systems and offering maintenance services. He hopes to see his small business grow and over time “I want to buy a motorbike to facilitate my movement through neighboring communities. I also want to invest part of my earnings to improve my home and to provide for my child’s education.”
Denis Martinez says “the opportunity to take the TecAp course to become a microtechnician has been a life time opportunity that has helped me to move forward professionally and personally and at the same time it has giving me an excellent skill to help benefit the community in general.”
Edberto Barahona Ochoa
Traveling to the northern part of Nicaragua, a territory that has played an essential part of the history of this country, we will find Edberto Barahona in San Gregorio, a community of Murra. Edberto, 45, works as both a TecAp microfranchisee and microtechnician who learned what it is to work at a very young age when his father died and it became his obligation to help his mother and siblings. Edberto immersed himself in agricultural work as well as other odd jobs in his rural area that helped him survive.
Currently, Edberto is married to a woman named Lidia with whom he has two young sons. Prior to working with TecAp, Edberto worked in repairing cell phones, televisions, worked with electric installations and repaird solar products. Edberto was sought out by Hermogenes Zelaya, TecAp’s technical coordinator, for his skills and knowledge. Initially, Edberto worked with TecAp as a repairer of solar products when Hermogenes invited him to also sell these products.
Edberto accepted being part of TecAp and he reports that the benefits he has received have not only been financial, but that he has also learned new information about how solar items work in addition to developing interpersonal skills to make him a better seller. Edberto shares that the TecAp’s provision of updated catalogues with a detailed description of each article has facilitated the selling of these products.
After receiving his solar lamps to sell, Edberto made is his first sale only five days later. To sell solar lamps, Edberto takes them out with him to other communities within the county of Murra where he teaches people about how they work and shows them how they are used.
After some time of being with TecAp, Hermogenes offered Edberto another opportunity to participate in TecAp’s solar systems course to become a certified microtechnician. Because of Edberto’s interest and previous experience working with electricity, he decided to enroll in the course as a way to learn more and develop the skills needed to help communities that do not have conventional light and to also receive additional income.
Edberto shares that there are many benefits to being a certified TecAp solar technician, including the knowledge obtained about solar panels and prestige he gained being known as having official training and having a TecAp identification card.
Having light permits for one’s lifestyle to change, and this is one of the main reasons why Edberto continues to work with TecAp. Edberto enjoys and appreciates the trust he has gained in his community as well as the respect he receives from working with TecAp staff.
Francisco Javier Sevilla Zambrana
Francisco, 35, is lives in Las Conchas, San Juan del Río Coco. Francisco is a patient, well-spoken partner and father of two. Francisco has never lived in a community that has electricity, but since his involvement with TecAp he has purchased a minisystema for his home, bringing light and facilitating activities of everyday life. For years Francisco has worked as a primary school teacher in his community. As we all know, teaching is not an easy job. Francisco, as well as other small, rural community school teachers, is responsible for teaching students of various grade levels in one room at the same time. Francisco said that out of all of his years teaching, there has only been on year when he was given just one grade level to teach. When Francisco is not with his family or teaching, he tends to a private piece of property where he grows coffee.
Through FUNDENUSE, an institution that offers credit to microfranchisees in various regions of Nicaragua, Francisco learned of TecAp’s course on solar panels. After consulting with his family about pursuing the opportunity, Francisco was recommended to follow-up on the chance to study solar power because it would be beneficial to both him and his community. Before the course, there were few to no solar panel technicians in the area; therefore, whenever a solar panel broke, families would have to hire someone who lived far away and would thus charge significantly more for their time and travel. Francisco saw his participation in TecAp’s program as an opportunity to improve his chances of earning additional income in addition to providing more affordable services to his community.
Francisco has not yet sold solar panels offered through TecAp, but he has serviced several systems that people already had in their homes. Like several other TecAp certified microtechnicials, Francisco also sells solar lamps as a microfranchisee when he is not working on solar panels. Through Francisco’s involvement with TecAp, he has been able to invest in products needed to maintain his land as well as purchase consumable goods for his home. Francisco has a desire to engage his community in the uses and benefits of solar power and is hopeful that this harvest season will be a good one.
Juan Luis Gomez
Juan Luis Gomez, 35, is from a community of Quilali called La Reforma. Juan is married and is a father of three. Juan works in agriculture and his main source of income is earned from working on his personal piece of land where he grows coffee. Juan began working with TecAp in 2014 when he learned about the opportunity to take the solar systems course. Like many other participants in the TecAp solar panel course, Juan was invited by the mayor of Quilali.
Before working with TecAp, Juan had heard of solar systems, but did not know how they worked. He admits that in the beginning of the TecAp course that it was difficult for him, but thanks to his teacher, Alexis Tercero, he developed a deep understanding of the topics.
Juan was motivated to enroll in this course as a way to gain new experience, earn additional income from his family and to help his local community. Juan describes that working with TecAp is better for the community than other programs/companies as it does not charge additional fees for installations.
Shortly after becoming certified as a solar technician, Juan was given the opportunity to also sell solar powered lamps with TecAp. Juan accepted this offer and is currently amongst the top selling microfranchisees. Juan says that the benefits that consumers of both solar systems and solar lights receive that are they now are able to work within their homes into the dark hours. Before have light, rural inhabitants often have to finish their work by around 5:00, when the sun goes down. With light, they are allowed more hours of productive work, including in the earning mornings as well. Juan has benefitted by obtaining more knowledge on solar power and also by earning additional income, which he has invested in both his land and the studies of his children.
Juan sees himself working with TecAp well into the future and would like to see TecAp teach about the coexistence between conventional and solar energy.
Micro technician Israel Castellón Zeledón
Israel Castellón, 28, lives in the town of Rosario in the municipality of Murra. It is in the department of Nueva Segovia and is just south of the Honduran border. He grew up in an agricultural family and still works in it.
Israel was looking for additional vocational training when he learned from the Mayor that TecAp was offering scholarships for their training program in solar education. “I was really delighted as I already have work based on my expertise in residential electrical installations. Since I know AC, it was a great complement to learn DC as well.” There are so many communities nearby that do not have conventional electricity so this new learning has doubled my market for work.”
Israel made a great effort to study, since his community is far from where the course was held. He decided to move to live with his uncle in the town of Quilalí for the five week duration of the course and only traveled back to his community occasionally.
During the practical and theoretical classes, Israel was a very active participant, which led him to work with TecAp later in some installations done in the area of Murra. “With each installation, I see that I am is deepening what I learned in the course.”
Israel Castellón is dedicated to making either AC or DC installations in homes. In the many communities without conventional electricity, he promotes rooftop systems. In coordination with a woman microfranchisee who lives in Rosario, he sells small solar products in areas that are not in her territory. While some think that electricity is a man’s job, Israel does not. “I think that anyone with sufficient interest, whether man or woman, can learn how to do rooftop installations and can go out and sell solar products.”
“For me, having earned diploma as a Technician in Photovoltaic Solar Systems is a practical way to be useful to society. I want to continue to serve others and become known for the quality of my work,” says Israel. TecAp continues to mentor micro technicians like Israel and to supply them with the products and spare parts they need to bring light to those who need it.