Solar is a historically finicky industry. When it’s hot, it’s red hot, and when it’s not, it’s really not. So much of solar’s ebbs and flows (especially residential solar) comes from state and federal incentives, and that creates a nightmarish situation for entrepreneurs working in solar trying to create stable jobs and build stable teams of installers, electricians, and other skilled laborers. Sometimes, there might be work for a large project for a few months, and then there may be lags long enough that workers become an unmanageable financial burden to their employers.
The solution may be in outsourcing. Think Manpower for the solar industry, and you may have stumbled on a great idea. Skilled laborers that can jump onto a project, see it through to fruition, and then if there’s no more work, they go work for another solar company. Cool, right? I thought so, enough so that I interviewed Jake Durkee of Outsource.net at July’s Intersolar USA conference in San Francisco.
“A lot of our contractors come to us and need people to install solar for a 2-month project. But they don’t need to keep those guys on after,” said Durkee.
Outsource provides skilled laborers to solar companies, specializing in low-voltage labor applications, so that solar companies know they’re getting people who can do the job. The company is operating in a fairly limited geographical area (19 offices nationwide, according to its website, so it has clearly opened another since I did this interview a month ago).
Durkee said that if Outsource pairs someone up with one of these companies, and the company finds it’s a good fit, the company can hire the worker full-time without any payment to Outsource (after a 6-month period). This gives solar installers a chance to bring on an experienced workforce to complete work without the overhead involved in keeping full-time employees when the going gets a bit slow, but also gives them the opportunity to create full-time employment for hard-working people who are a great fit for the company. We’re all for solar and green jobs here at CleanTechnica, and with the solar industry’s notorious instability, Outsource may just provide a great lubricant to help bring about more solar in more places, and to that, we say, kudos.
Here’s my interview with Durkee: