White House announces New Solar Workforce Development Program, Led by The Solar Foundation
The White House recently announced a new program, led by The Solar Foundation, to help train more Americans for careers in the rapidly expanding solar workforce. The $2.1 million program, known as the Solar Training Network, is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative under the Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) funding program. The Solar Training Network will help build the infrastructure to meet President Obama’s 2015 commitment to train 75,000 people for careers in solar by 2020. The program will enhance and expand solar training resources and connect employers to qualified applicants.
For solar job seekers, the Solar Training Network will improve access to solar training, resources, and careers. For employers, it will increase the quality and diversity of the solar workforce and establish nationally consistent training standards. “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,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “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.”
Through the Solar Training Network, The Solar Foundation will build upon the successes of the Department of Energy’s Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN) program and prepare even more Americans for careers in solar. A strategically selected team of national experts in solar energy training, workforce development, and industry will collaborate with The Solar Foundation on this program. The Solar Training Network will also facilitate new research to increase understanding of the solar labor market, industry needs, costs, and potential savings associated with training the installation workforce.
The Solar Training Network is led by The Solar Foundation. The team also includes:
· American Association of Community Colleges
· National Association of Workforce Boards
· GRID Alternatives
· Florida Solar Energy Center
· Solar Energy International
· Solar Energy Industries Association
“As the U.S. continues its push for greater energy production domestically, solar will play an important role,” said Ron Painter, president and CEO of the National Association of Workforce Boards. “NAWB is pleased that local workforce boards across the U.S. are working with employers to skill their workforce in solar technologies. We look forward to working with The Solar Foundation to expand our knowledge of the field and increase the number of qualified workers available in the industry.”
“As a growing number of students seek careers in the solar industry, AACC is pleased to be a partner in the Solar Training Network, which will support community colleges as they meet workforce demands through high quality training and employer connections,” said Jen Worth, Senior Vice President, Workforce and Economic Development at the American Association of Community Colleges. The Solar Foundation’s sixth National Solar Jobs Census report, released in January, indicated the U.S. solar workforce currently has nearly 209,000 workers, up 20.2 percent since 2014 and up 123 percent since 2010. The Solar Foundation also recently launched the highly interactive website SolarStates.org, which features solar jobs data broken out by state, county, and legislative districts.