New DOE funding will support solar careers for veterans and underserved communities

The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating solar energy growth, was selected to receive a $2 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to support an advanced and highly qualified solar workforce.

This new program will include a groundbreaking effort to support solar industry apprenticeships for hundreds of transitioning military veterans, preparing them for leadership roles in a rapidly growing industry. The program will also provide expert assistance to help the solar industry leverage workforce development resources and hire more workers from underserved communities.

The Solar Foundation was selected as a part of the Energy Department’s FY2018 SETO funding program, an effort to invest in new projects that will lower solar electricity costs and support a growing solar workforce. The Solar Foundation will work alongside other projects in the funding program to develop training programs that prepare the solar workforce for a more digital electric power system and enable veterans and transitioning military personnel to join the solar workforce.

This new program will expand on The Solar Foundation’s current and previous efforts to help build a pipeline of qualified solar workers across the country, through initiatives such as the Solar Training Network, Solar Ready Vets and the National Solar Jobs Census.

“We’re committed to building a solar workforce that can meet the urgent challenges of the 21st century,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation. “This new program will help veterans and other job seekers develop advanced technical skills and become America’s future solar leaders.”

Working with industry partners, the new program will create solar industry apprenticeships for hundreds of veterans departing the armed forces, and develop a scalable model to train even more in the future. This effort will take advantage of the transferable skills that make service members outstanding candidates for careers in solar.

The new effort will be led by The Solar Foundation with partnership from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) and Cypress Creek Renewables.

“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,” said Eric Eversole, VP at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and president of Hiring Our Heroes. “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.”

“SEIA members hire thousands of workers every year and a well-equipped, diverse talent pool is central to their success,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “We are proud to partner with The Solar Foundation on this program, which will further strengthen the solar workforce by bringing more opportunity and jobs to our nation’s veterans and underserved communities.”

This initiative will also build on the work of the Solar Training Network, a program led by The Solar Foundation to promote a skilled and diverse solar workforce. It will catalyze the industry’s implementation of recommendations in the Solar Training Network’s recent toolkit, Strategies for Solar Workforce Development, which provides guidance on developing work-based training programs and leveraging workforce development systems and practices.

The new effort will expand upon The Solar Foundation’s previous Solar Ready Vets program, which trained hundreds of transitioning military personnel for careers in solar. And it will draw from the insights in The Solar Foundation’s solar jobs research such as the National Solar Jobs Census, which is now in the field with a solar industry survey about the current state of the solar workforce.

“NABCEP is excited to work with The Solar Foundation and the other partners as we develop innovative career pathways for veterans and other underrepresented populations in the solar industry,” said Shawn O’Brien, executive director of NABCEP. “The diverse team of solar organizations that The Solar Foundation has assembled will provide the expertise necessary to create a program that will have a long-term impact on the quality of the PV labor market and the sustainable growth of the solar industry.”

“Cypress Creek is proud to join forces with the U.S. Energy Department, The Solar Foundation, and our partners to strengthen the nation’s solar energy workforce,” said Jaime Carlson, executive VP of operations at Cypress Creek Renewables. “Over the past year, we have launched five partnerships with technical and community colleges throughout the country to recruit and train students in solar. This grant will expand the momentum of our existing partnerships and increase the representation of veterans and underserved communities in the industry.”

News item from The Solar Foundation

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