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Solar Ready Vets: Preparing Our Veterans to Join the Growing Solar Workforce

April 6, 2015 - 2:27pm

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Last Friday at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, President Obama announced the expansion of the Solar Ready Vets program, a joint effort between the Department of Energy and Department of Defense to train active military personnel for careers in the solar energy industry. | White House photo.

Last Friday at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, President Obama announced the expansion of the Solar Ready Vets program, a joint effort between the Department of Energy and Department of Defense to train active military personnel for careers in the solar energy industry. | White House photo.

The transition from military service into the civilian workforce can be a vulnerable moment.

Many veterans indicate that finding a job is one of the greatest challenges they face in their return to civilian life, and one aspect of that challenge is translating military skills and experience in a marketable way for civilian employers.

At the Department of Energy, we like to say we’re solutions people. And there is a great opportunity here to help by connecting our talented veterans with a dynamic sector in our economy that needs them. Solar electricity generation doubled last year alone, and the solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. That’s why the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense joined forces to create the Solar Ready Vets program, which provides training to help military personnel translate and build on their skill sets and transition to careers in this thriving renewable energy field.

On Friday, President Obama announced that Solar Ready Vets will be expanding to 10 military bases across the nation, building on a successful pilot program that kicked off on three bases in 2014: Camp Pendleton in California, Fort Carson in Colorado, and Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.

Here’s how Solar Ready Vets works:

  • It is tied into the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge Initiative -- meaning the program is open to active military personnel who are within a few months of moving to veteran status.
  • Trainees participate in intensive four- to six-week training courses where they learn how to size and install solar panels, connect electricity to the grid, and interpret and comply with local building codes.
  • Trainees receive hands-on instruction using industry-standard equipment from master trainers with SunShot’s Solar Instructor Training Network.
  • The program covers a wide range of solar energy careers, including solar photovoltaic system installers, sales representatives, system inspectors and more.
  • There is no cost to participating service members.

Making this even more effective for our transitioning military members, the Energy Department also secured commitments from the five largest U.S. solar companies to interview the graduating trainees from our pilot programs. This means that when our first class of 20 Marines and Sailors graduated from Camp Pendleton in February, all 20 received job offers.

It’s that kind of success that has motivated us to keep expanding the Solar Ready Vets program. We know what significant contributions veterans can continue making to our nation, because more than a third of the Energy Department’s  employees are veterans! So we will do all that we can to support our transitioning servicemen and women and help them to develop opportunities that keep them actively engaged in work on behalf of our great country.

Hill Air Force Base in Utah, where the President made his announcement on Friday, will become the fourth military base to participate in Solar Ready Vets this fall. We’ll be working with the Department of Defense and military branches to select six additional locations around the country.

More broadly, we are also working with the Department of Defense -- the largest consumer of energy in the federal government -- to increase the use of renewable energy on bases at home and abroad. Building on the President’s recent Executive Order that sets new goals for the federal government to reduce emissions, we may well see some of our Solar Ready Vets coming back to bases to help build solar installations in their new roles and continue protecting our nation by improving our energy security.

We are very proud to be driving this effort to support transitioning veterans, advance our climate goals and grow our domestic solar industry.

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