Solar training network builds a stronger solar workforce

Adrienne SorensenAugust 1, 20187450

Solar training network builds a stronger solar workforce

The Solar Training Network is led by The Solar Foundation and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. From solar- employer-instructor summits to an online interactive directory, they improve the solar jobs landscape for a better qualified and diverse solar workforce.

New solutions-driven toolkit 

The network released a new solutions-driven toolkit that discusses workforce development and work-based learning. It  provides actionable solutions to better align education with evolving workforce needs to support stronger regional talent pipelines. It has case studies and industry best practices to leverage existing networks and public resources. Many employers lack experience and solar-specific credentials. As solar became a mainstream energy source, job descriptions reflect a desire for seasoned installers.  Solar jobs do spring up quickly, that candidates have little or no practical solar experience. When companies can’t fill roles it restricts growth and hurts bottom lines. To ensure industry resources and recommendations reflect stakeholder interests, the team conducted interviews and engaged in national meeting of training providers, small business owners, industry association representatives and workforce development professionals from geographically diverse solar markets. It became apparant that improving communication among networks, integrating solar into the existing workforce development system and building relationships with external stakeholders are crucial steps to managing growth in the industry.

Solar work-based learning

The ability to put knowledge into practice is a key part of job readiness. With entry-level solar workers, employers see the most value in hands-on experience and safety training rather than formal courses. Standardized certifications such as NABCEP are valuable to to build credentials for career advancement. Practical experience and willingness to learn new skills on the job are strong assets. Apprenticeships, internships or co-ops are great avenues to learn the basics and problem-solving skills from a mentor. It invests in talent and improve employee retention. Rapid expansion in the market has confronted the workforce to keep pace with demand. The network supports committed pipelines for talent attraction and retention. Communicating diverse pathways in broadening awareness and interest in solar careers. This toolkit notes economical opportunities for employers for training, hiring practices, and increase awareness of diverse solar career opportunities. For instance, employers can engage with the public education system to reach near-future job seekers through high-school job shadowing, integrating solar into K-12 science curriculums and more. It explores paths to improve workforce diversity and establish partnerships. Using the toolkit’s action plan, small solar businesses can reach out to community organizations s to access recruitment and understand how to leverage other underutilized public resources for training and recruitment.

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