With its third year of greater than 20 percent annual growth and 12 times the national growth rate of other industries, the solar industry is clearly booming and shows no signs of slowing down. For the first time in U.S. history, there are more jobs in the solar industry than there are in either oil and gas extraction or coal mining; this is not only a sign of the changing times as we move into a time period requiring clean technologies, it also serves as a beacon to people ready for a career change. Veterans are ideally suited for jobs in the solar industry, being highly motivated and technically savvy. Thanks to the Solar Ready Vets program offered through the Department of Energy (DOE), military personnel who are preparing to transition back into civilian life can receive free training to prepare them for well-paying jobs in the solar industry.
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Steady Job Growth and High Wages
When veterans enter the solar industry as photovoltaic (PV) system installers, system inspectors, sales representatives, private business owners and more, they will find not only plenty of job opportunities throughout the nation but will also appreciate an hourly wage that is double the national average. Installers make an average of $21/hour, while master electricians are often paid $30/hour or more. Sales representatives for solar energy products enjoy a significantly higher salary than the majority of people in sales positions for other industries and average over $80,000 annually. The industry is growing so rapidly that there is plenty of room for new business owners to create their own solar installation companies, providing a virtually limitless income potential to veterans and others with ample business and solar skills. Some solar companies are even reporting the demand for new installations has tripled between 2014 and 2015.
Veterans Ideally Suited for Solar Positions
The vast majority of veterans are highly motivated people seeking meaningful employment that will allow them to continue to serve the needs of their nation. This motivation, along with discipline and the technical skills they have acquired during their military service, makes them excellent candidates for solar positions. The Solar Ready Vets program builds on the skills these service people already have and prepares them for roles in the solar industry. After four to six weeks of classroom and/or online training, students will take the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Exam, allowing them to leave with credentials widely recognized throughout the PV industry. Graduates of the course are ideal candidates to enter the solar industry as installers, inspectors, sales representatives, and more.
Ten Military Bases Currently Offer the Solar Ready Vets Program
As of May 2016, ten military bases are offering the Solar Ready Vets Program. Bases not currently hosting the training but wishing to do so may apply directly to The Solar Foundation, as the need for a steadily increasing number of veterans trained in the solar industry is anticipated. The bases selected to host the courses were chosen based on their proximity to numerous jobs in the solar industry, the ability of nearby institutions to support the training, and the number of veterans exiting the bases. Training is currently offered through:
- Fort Carson, Colorado
- Hill Air Force Base, Utah
- Marine Corps Base, Hawaii
- Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia
- Fort Drum, New York
- Camp Pendleton, California
- Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey
- Joint Base San Antonio, Texas
- Eglin Air Force Base, Florida
- Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Career Opportunities With Continued Promise of Expansion
In 2015, 96 new solar jobs were created each day and at the end of the year more than 200,000 U.S. workers were employed in the solar industry. The tax investment credits that offer significant incentives for homeowners and businesses to install solar panels have been extended until 2021; this fact alone nearly guarantees the continued expansion of the solar industry, and veterans who leave the military well prepared with solar training will be ready to help fill the void for skilled workers. In addition to Solar Ready Vets, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is also committed to raising the number of veterans working in the solar industry to 50,000 by the year 2020.
Opportunities Throughout the Nation
Managers within the solar industry are expressing that it can be “very difficult” to find qualified solar employees, so properly trained veterans have a unique opportunity to enter this expanding field immediately upon leaving the military. While local solar jobs are generally most plentiful in the areas surrounding the ten bases that have implemented the Solar Ready Vets program, the solar industry is growing so rapidly that most veterans are able to find a position in any part of the country they desire.
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