U.S. Energy Department steps up its solar training

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Today the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a variety of measures to deepen its commitment to initiatives to ensure a more skilled solar workforce in America, including a greater participation by veterans of the U.S. military.

This includes the awarding of a total of US$10 million in funding to 10 different organizations under its Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) program. Individual organizations will receive between $430,000 and $2.2 million to not only train workers for the solar industry, but to train other professions in solar PV.

The largest recipient, Interstate Renewable Energy Council, has received $2.2 million to trade 100,000 code officials, inspectors and firefighters, by enabling the integration of solar training into existing professional development programs.

This focus on related professions fits within the goals of STEP, which aims to make it easier to install solar by improving inspection compliance, expediting system permitting, and reducing liability and insurance costs.

The second-largest award winner under this round of STEP grants is The Solar Foundation, which is known for its National Solar Jobs Census, which serves as the definitive annual report on the U.S. solar workforce.

Solar Foundation will receive $1.9 million to become the national administrator for DOE’s Solar Ready Vets program, working with training institutions on 10 military bases to train more than 2,500 military veterans for careers in the solar industry.

Simultaneously with the awards, DOE has announced that five military bases have joined the program. These bases are located in New Jersey, Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Hawaii, and represent all four branches of the military.

Solar Ready Vets will work with existing military programs for training soldiers near the end of their military commitment for civilian jobs. DOE notes that the solar industry is a leader in hiring veterans, with 17,000 deployed to date, around 8% of the current workforce.

DOE says that today’s announcements build on the success of SunShot’s Solar Instructor Training Network, which has trained 1,100 solar instructors and provided training to more than 30,000 community college students nationwide.