(NABCEP), there are some
basic similarities between
working in oil or coal and
“One of the things solar
installation requires is the
same sort of mindset that
someone working in the coal
or oil industry might have,
which is being out in the elements, being able to use tools
and putting in a hard day’s
work in the feld,” he said.
NABCEP provides testing and qualifcation services
to installers who have completed classroom and on-the-job training. The organization also received DOE money
(about US $1M) to develop
new industry-validated personnel certifcations for individuals working in PV O&M
and mid-scale PV system
design and installation.
Lawrence said that feld
experience is a huge beneft for someone transitioning
from the fossil industry to the
renewable industry. “In talking to employers, that is one
of the hardest things to translate from the training environment into the real world,”
he said. “In the classroom you
can learn some of the basics
and theory but rarely do trainees understand what it means
to work on a roof all day.”
Te Power+ Initiative
Recognizing that coal
workers are losing their jobs, the Obama Administration in 2015
launched the Power Plus (Power+) initiative and set aside $38M
to fund it. The three-year program has so far released about
$12M according to Byron Zuidema, a Deputy Assistant Secretary
for Employment and Training at the Department of Labor (DOL).
That leaves about $26M available for communities who are being
hit hard by coal’s downturn. The program allows communities
with affected coal workers to apply for money to help retrain coal
workers for other jobs.
“It really is up to the communities to identify what the growing
jobs are,” said Zuidema.
He said that the renewable energy companies with job openings ought to be talking to communities through their state and
local workforce boards and, at the very least, posting their job
openings there. Further, they could be working on a more strategic level with communities to help them understand that renewable energy jobs are good, local jobs in a sector that is growing.
Zuidema said that these job training opportunities exist even
beyond hard-hit coal communities.
“The employment and training organization funds every state
in the union which then in turn sub-funds a variety of local
Transitioning veterans at Fort Carson in Colorado receive hands on
experience working with solar panels in the base’s first Solar Ready Vets
cohort. Credit: U.S. Department of Energy.