The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon aims to inspire the next generation of clean energy professionals. At the 2022 Competition Event in May, the DOE announced that it would be expanding the program through two new workforce development programs.
These programs, Solar Decathlon Pathways and Solar Decathlon Professionals, will provide high school students with industry-related mentorships and equip current professionals already in the workforce with the tools to sharpen their building science expertise, respectively.
“Solar Decathlon has always been about the students, and as we enter the competition’s third decade, now is the time to expand out offerings to include more scholars, from high schoolers preparing to choose careers to practicing professionals who are ready to learn new skills,” said Holly Jamesen Carr, director of the Solar Decathlon in the DOE’s Building Technologies Office.
Solar Decathlon Pathways is designed for high school students to connect with leaders working in renewable energy and the high-buildings performance sector. Through first-hand contact with Decathlon alumni who can provide insight into the field and describe their own educational and career paths, the Decathlon hopes to encourage more young people to pursue clean energy jobs.
“There is no one better suited to inspire the next generation of Solar Decathletes than our alumni network, which is now 40,000 strong and spread all over the world,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm while announcing the program.
The Solar Decathlon Professionals program was created in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects to encourage zero-energy implementation into buildings. This project consists of a 10-week course that allows early- to mid-career design professionals the opportunity to gain experience in designing zero energy products by applying these techniques into real-life projects, while also earning continuing education credits in the process.
The Solar Decathlon collegiate competition has challenged future building professionals since 2002. These new programs would join the current Design Challenge and Build Challenge in providing students with STEM education and workforce development opportunities.
“The Solar Decathlon is really the springboard to careers in clean energy, but we need to grow the ranks of big thinkers with bold ideas for new buildings that are energy efficient, affordable and designed with communities in mind,” Granholm said.