New US solar workforce development program will help facilitate the training of more skilled workers

Solar worker installing panels
CC BY 2.0 Oregon DOT

The Solar Training Network will work to build a diverse, qualified solar workforce to meet the needs of the solar revolution.

With the number of US solar jobs more than doubling over the last six years, and the solar industry adding workers at a rate almost 12 times faster than the economy in general, the need for skilled solar workers is high. However, as a relatively new field, training opportunities and employment infrastructure in the solar industry aren't nearly as robust as in other established industries, but a new program could help change that.

A new solar workforce development program, funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative, could help the booming US solar industry to meet the growing demand for qualified workers. The new Solar Training Network, backed by $2.1 million in funding over two years, is intended to enhance and build upon the current training resources available to both potential solar employees and solar employers, and to be an integral part of helping meet President Obama's commitment of training at least 75,000 people for careers in the solar industry by the year 2020.

“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

The Solar Foundation will lead this solar workforce development initiative, which seeks to “develop and strengthen connections between solar trainers, job seekers, solar employers, workforce development boards, and other key industry leaders.” The program is also anticipated to "ignite an industry-wide discussion" about solar career issues, among which are talent acquisition, career paths, standards for solar training, and best practices in solar installation. This new program will build upon the work of the DOE's Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN) by collaborating with teams of experts in a variety of solar training, solar career, and workforce development topics, and is expected to help boost new research into the solar industry's employment needs, the solar labor market, and the potential costs and savings of increased training for solar workers.

According to the website, the new initiative will benefit workers and employers alike by providing a "job seeker-to-employer connection platform," solar training resources, solar job fairs and training events, a directory of solar training providers, and a comprehensive national directory of solar companies.

Other partners in the Solar Training Network include Solar Energy International, the Solar Energy Industries Association, GRID Alternatives, the National Association of Workforce Boards, the American Association of Community Colleges, and the Florida Solar Energy Center. Interested solar employers and solar training providers can join the program here: Solar Training Network.

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