In April 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced an initiative to increase the number of trained solar workers in the United States. The new goal is to train 75,000 people to enter the solar workforce by 2020, an increase from the previous goal of training 50,000 new solar workers by 2020, which was announced in May 2014.
Part of the initiative involves a specific focus on veterans—the Solar Ready Vets program—to help military personnel enter the solar workforce.
“This new initiative will provide a big boost to the U.S. economy while also helping maintain solar energy’s explosive jobs growth,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “With stable public policies in place, we will not only meet the president’s goal of adding 75,000 new solar jobs in America by 2020, but we will blow past it.”
According to the SEIA, the solar industry already employs 175,000 workers nationwide and pumps nearly $18 billion a year into the economy. As the SEIA sees it, public policies—such as the solar investment tax credit, net energy metering, and renewable portfolio standards—are helping to fuel the growth of solar-power implementation.
According to a White House press release, adding 75,000 new workers builds on the tremendous progress of the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN), which is part of the DOE’s SunShot Initiative. The SITN includes a network of 400 partnering community colleges across the country and has trained more than 1,000 certified solar instructors and almost 30,000 students nationwide since its inception five years ago. According to the release, the solar industry is currently adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy.
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), the national administrator of the SITN, is working with nine SITN regional training providers and others in the industry to develop a qualified solar workforce that matches training with evolving industry needs.
The effort seems to dovetail with public opinion. A recent Gallup survey found that 91 percent of Americans want to see more or at least a similar emphasis on producing solar energy. In fact, solar was the only energy source (including natural gas, oil, coal, nuclear and other renewables) to show an increase in public favor over a similar Gallup poll in 2013.
For specific and detailed information on the IREC’s SITN program, including credentialing, standards development, and workforce training, go to www.irecusa.org/workforce-education/solar-instructor-training-network.