New Solar Workforce Development Program Aims To Meet Growing Solar Labor Demand

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A new $2.1 million solar workforce development program, funded by the US Department of Energy SunShot Initiative under its Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) program, seeks to boost the future of solar in the United States by helping to train more people to meet the growing demand for qualified solar employees.

Solar-Training-NetworkThe Solar Training Network aims to expand upon, and augment, the current solar training resources available to prospective solar job seekers, in order to help grow the necessary infrastructure for meeting President Obama’s commitment, made last year, to train some 75,000 people for solar careers by the year 2020.

The initiative, which is being led by The Solar Foundation, will “develop and strengthen connections between solar trainers, job seekers, solar employers, workforce development boards, and other key industry leaders” and is expected to begin conversations within the solar industry about an array of solar career and industry-related issues, including training standards, solar talent acquisition, installation best practices, and more.

The Solar Training Network team, while being led by The Solar Foundation, also includes GRID Alternatives, Solar Energy International, the Florida Solar Energy Center, the Solar Energy Industries Association, the American Association of Community Colleges, and the National Association of Workforce Boards.

The Solar Foundation is expected to build upon the previous successes of the Department of Energy’s Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN) program through a collaboration with “selected teams of national experts” in solar training, the solar industry in general, and workforce development issues. It will also work to expedite new research into the employment needs of the solar industry, the costs and potential savings of increased solar training, and a better understanding of the solar labor market.

“As the number of solar jobs increases dramatically each year, the Solar Training Network will help give job seekers the training opportunities they need, while helping employers gain access to qualified candidates. A lot of great work has already been conducted by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council and the Department of Energy, and we look forward to building a sustainable program that will meet the workforce needs of the solar industry for years to come.” – Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation

According to the Solar Training Network’s website, the benefits of the initiative are:

  • Connection opportunities with training providers, employers, and job seekers
  • A job seeker-to-employer connection platform though a robust, member-only web portal
  • Solar job fairs and other regional training events
  • Solar training resources and content
  • A national directory of solar training providers
  • A comprehensive national solar company directory

“For solar job seekers, the Solar Training Network will improve access to solar training, resources, and career opportunities. For employers, it will increase the quality and diversity of the solar workforce and create a dedicated employment pipeline for finding new solar workers.

“For training providers, it will provide access to training resources and build connections with solar employers, enhancing the career development aspects of their training.”

Solar training providers and solar employers are both encouraged to join the Solar Training Network.

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Derek Markham

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee.

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