Last week, the US Department of Energy tossed another $12 million into the pot for ramping up the number of trainees for solar jobs in the US, with the ultimate goal of accelerating growth in the domestic solar industry. I know, right?! The Energy Department was a little slim on the details but its partner, The Solar Foundation, has the scoop on what’s in store for jobseekers in the US solar industry, especially veterans.
Before we get to the Solar Foundation, let’s pause to note that bringing back all the coal jobs was a main thrust of President* Trump’s rhetoric during the 2016 campaign. That’s nice, but the US coal industry continues to wither away while his own Department of Energy is promoting solar jobs hand over fist. Here’s the money quote from the agency:
Solar is the next great American industry.
Solar Ready Vets Was Just The Beginning
The new funding builds on an Obama-era program job training program called Solar Ready Vets. Funding has closed out for that program, which was also administered by The Solar Foundation.
CleanTechnica covered Solar Ready Vets when it launched in 2016, with this observation:
At least 190,000 veterans are expected to transition out of the US military each year over the next several years, and the federal program Solar Ready Vets is gearing up to match them with solar jobs.
Funding for the program was under threat when Trump took office, but it looks like all’s well that ends well. The new funds for solar career training are going to build — and build, and build — on the success of Solar Ready Vets.
More Solar Jobs For More Veterans
The Solar Foundation has big plans for the new career training initiative, and it will deploy $2 million of the $12 million solar jobs pot.
Described as a “groundbreaking effort,” the program partners The Solar Foundation with other awardees with a focus on training for the digital power systems of the future.
Here’s the money quote from the Solar Foundation press release featuring Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director at The Solar Foundation:
“We’re committed to building a solar workforce that can meet the urgent challenges of the 21st century. This new program will help veterans and other job seekers develop advanced technical skills and become America’s future solar leaders.”
Nice. CleanTechnica also touched base with the organization’s communications team, and they explained the difference between the new program and Solar Ready Vets:
This will be a new program that builds on our experience and success with Solar Ready Vets, along with other workforce development initiatives such as the Solar Training Network.
We will work with solar companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program to create apprenticeships for veterans departing the armed forces, helping them acquire cutting-edge skills to become the next solar industry leaders.
This is a different model from the Solar Ready Vets program, which trained service members at select military bases in partnership with area community colleges. This new funding will allow us to create hundreds of apprenticeships and establish a scalable model to train even more.
In addition to the apprenticeships for veterans, this funding will help the solar industry leverage workforce development resources and hire job seekers in underserved communities.
That’s quite a difference!
What Now, US Chamber of Commerce?
If you caught that thing about the US Chamber of Commerce, no you’re not dreaming. Just a few years ago the organization was front and center in the pushback against climate action.
The Chamber caught a lot of flak from public and private sector climate hawks back in 2010, when news surfaced that the organization was throwing many dollars around to support legislators opposed to climate action.
Well, that was then. Here’s Eric Eversole, US Chamber Vice President and President of Hiring Our Heroes, adding his two cents to the Solar Foundation press release:
“The proposed program outlines a strategic, innovative, and viable approach to scale solar workforce pipelines by leveraging talent pools like America’s transitioning service members. High demand for solar employment in many regions presents a compelling opportunity to leverage the strong technical and leadership skills that veterans and military personnel possess.”
As for the Chamber itself, yes it does have an official position on climate change. Without coming right out and saying that human activity has brought about the potential for catastrophic global warming, they advocate for action, and for human-centered solutions:
…The Chamber supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and believes technology and innovation offer the greatest potential to reduce emissions and mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.
Don’t get too excited! That’s actually quite close to the Chamber’s position on climate change back in 2009:
The Chamber supports climate policies that lower emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, promote energy efficiency,and ensures the development and deployment of “green” energy technologies.
Talk about having your climate cake and eating it too! Whenever the Chamber gets around to throwing more dollars at legislators who support a forceful national policy on climate change, we’ll let you know.
Full Steam Ahead On Solar Jobs
Where were we? Oh right, solar jobs. The partnership with the US Chamber is a big deal. Layered on top of that is the the Solar Foundation’s existing Solar Training Network, which focuses on workforce diversity as part of a holistic effort to build a skilled labor pool.
Another link in the Energy Department funding chain is the leading solar company Cypress Creek Renewables, which has already launched several jobs training and recruiting programs at technical and community colleges.
Rounding out the partnership is another pair of heavy hitters with a head start on the solar jobs game, SEIA (the Solar Energy Industries Association) and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.
Follow me on Twitter.
Image (screenshot): Solar Career Map.