As the solar industry matures and diversifies, there is an increasing need for other “allied” industries to know more about solar technologies, both for safety and quality assurance. Firefighters, local code officials and building inspectors, real estate agents and appraisers, insurers and financiers all have an important role in the rapidly changing clean energy economy.If market growth in the solar sector is to continue in a safe and sustainable way, quality workforce training for industries that “touch” solar is imperative in order to enhance their expertise and add to their professional development toolkits.
Recognizing this need, the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative announced today that IREC has received funding under the new Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) program. Throughout the project, IREC and its industry partners will coordinate outreach and develop solar training resources designed to target 100,000 professionals in the building code, inspection and firefighting sectors. At the end of the two-year project, IREC aims to deliver direct training to 10,000 individuals.
“This project represents a natural progression for IREC, based on our long history building a competent and highly-skilled workforce for the clean energy sectors,” says IREC President/CEO Jane Weissman. “Our colleagues in the allied industries are key players in ensuring safe, sustainable market growth, and in reducing solar soft costs that are ultimately passed along to energy consumers.”
Representing the broad range of stakeholders in this project, IREC’s STEP partners mirror the industries that will be participating in the solar trainings. The National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) and International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) will represent the fire service, while the International Code Council’s Solar Rating & Certification Corporation (ICC-SRCC) and the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI) will represent a wide range of code and fire officials and inspectors. Rounding out the team are private sector partners Interplay Learning and Embedded Assessments, who will support development, delivery and evaluation of training.
“The STEP project will position the IAFF to continue to provide our 300,000-plus members in the North American fire service with access to training and equipment to safely and effectively respond to incidents involving solar power energy systems,” said IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger. “We look forward to our continued work with the Interstate Renewable Energy Council to achieve this goal.”
“We are excited to be working with IREC and our industry partners on the SunShot Initiative project,” said IAEI CEO David Clements. “We are pleased to contribute to the deployment of high quality solar training to electrical inspectors, installers and designers for the benefit of all involved in today’s fast-growing renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. And because resources and training will be integrated into existing professional training programs, it won’t end with this collaboration.”
“IREC is thrilled to have an opportunity to influence development of solar competencies within these allied industries,” adds Laure-Jeanne Davignon, IREC director of workforce and credentialing, and principal investigator on the STEP award. “Leveraging the same best practices we apply to our other clean energy training projects, the impact of this project is designed to go well beyond the two-year award period, increasing the number of Americans who can afford to access solar energy, and perpetuating a value chain that gives consumers confidence in the safety and results of solar installations.”