Build a Solar Education Pipeline to Meet Job Demand


Like most industries, the solar industry is facing supply and labor shortages and shipping delays. But the Biden administration’s goal of having the United States generate half of its electricity using solar power by 2050 compounds the problems for the solar industry.

Finding skilled employees, transitioning skilled workers from related industries, and providing ongoing training to keep the skills of existing employees up to date with the latest technologies and codes are some of the biggest challenges facing energy companies. clean and solar. Some of these issues can be addressed by developing more training programs for skilled workers in similar industries, but the solar industry must also increase workforce diversity to continue to grow and meet future demands. .

The record growth of the renewable energy sector and a future where solar power could provide more than 40% of the country’s electricity by 2035 – up from 3% today – requires skills and record re-skilling of individuals to meet future labor demands. Analysis by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) shows that while the solar industry is on track to reach 400,000 solar jobs by 2030, employment will need to exceed 900,000 workers by 2035 to reach the 100% clean electricity target set by President Biden.

One of the issues facing the solar industry is an aging workforce.

25% of the energy sector workforce is aged 55 and over, and as more qualified employees with decades of experience prepare for retirement, the industry could find itself with a knowledge gap. A growing demographic pool of people who typically leave the workforce to retire combined with a relatively smaller population of younger people of working age to replace them, it is likely that the sustainability of a healthy labor force participation rate labor market will face challenges in the coming years.

Additional efforts should be made to recruit younger generations into the solar energy professions.

At a time when the value of a college education is questioned by many young people who would rather avoid a lifetime of student debt, there is a need for post-secondary education programs that will accelerate young adults to successful careers. in renewable energies. Increasing economic opportunity for individuals requires the solar industry to improve access to both degrees, including non-degree degrees, and work with employers to embrace skills-based hiring and provide job opportunities. workplace learning, providing financial support if needed.

Attracting a younger generation of talent can start with partnerships between solar companies and high schools, community colleges and universities in key hiring regions to develop support for solar-focused education programs. Organizations can help create a program tailored to current industry needs. They can also offer students incentives to pursue careers in solar through scholarships to cover the costs of certification and training programs, as well as working with schools to partner with internships and apprenticeships that matter. for degree credits.

In addition, solar companies must redouble their efforts to retrain and recruit employees whose careers have been affected by the pandemic.

Women and minorities who previously worked in hospitality, education, healthcare and other industries before losing their jobs or were forced out of the workforce to be caregivers during the pandemic represent an opportunity single job.

According to the National Solar Jobs Census 2020, the largest employment sector in the solar industry is installation and construction related jobs, which account for 67% of all jobs in the industry. Construction and solar jobs have traditionally been dominated by white men. However, the solar industry is slowly diversifying:

  • 39% more women,
  • 92% more Hispanics or Latinos,
  • 73% more Black or African American and
  • 18% more Asians are now employed in the solar industry than in 2015.

Hispanic or Latino workers are the only minority group more likely to work in other construction industries. More women, black or African American and Asian employees work in the solar industry compared to all construction jobs in the United States. This shows that solar companies have an opportunity to attract more minority workers, who already have a vested interest in the field compared to other construction jobs, by developing more programs to recruit and train women and minority workers.

Providing career advice, financial support and access to technical training will be even more important for solar companies to invest in for minority groups, even more than for younger generations.

In order to reach its full growth potential and meet government green energy targets by 2050, the solar industry as a whole must invest in programs that educate current and future workers on the benefits of employment in the solar industry. Increased efforts must also be made to educate workers with relevant skills to transition them from their previous roles into solar jobs. Without better access to training programs and financial support, the solar industry will face continued labor shortages that could limit its growth potential.

Elizabeth Sanderson is the executive director of International solar energy

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Tags: International solar energy

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