A major challenge for renewable energy companies right now is a labor crunch; it’s hard to line up workers and salespeople in the industry, says Ryan Carda, principal engineer, Dandelion Energy, whose company uses HeatSpring for Groups courses to prepare its new workers in the geothermal field.

“Finding people in areas we are most interested in is hard. That’s why training is critical to our business and industry,” he says.

Another challenge is staying updated in an ever-changing industry, says Ben Ellis, field service manager for Solect Energy, whose solar PV installation crew members have taken HeatSpring courses to help earn NABCEP Credentials and PV Certifications. 

“As a Massachusetts Master electrician, one thing I’ve learned to count on in this ever-evolving Industry, is change.”

What’s more, many solar workers come from more traditional energy jobs, and it’s not easy to make that transition, says Ken Pedotto, CEO, Solar Simplified. 

“It’s crucial that our employees know the ins and outs of our industry in order to be able to provide the best possible service to our clients,” he says. 

Following are some best practices for addressing these challenges and hiring, training and retaining employees.

Hire Employees who are a Good Fit Culturally

When hiring new employees, focus on how motivated they are and whether they fit well into your culture, Carda advises. 

If you hire them based on motivation and fit, you can “mold” them with training, he says. 

Start Training Early to Ensure You Always have Experts in House

One of the most important steps a company can take is to begin training early, says Carda.

If one critical person in the company leaves, you’ll have trained employees available to step into the role. This is especially important given labor shortages and the tendency for workers to move from one company to another.

Ensure Training Courses are Up to Date

Another important practice is to ensure training courses are up to date.

Many certification courses are outdated, which means that new hires may earn certificates, but the certificates may not be relevant to the jobs they’re hired to perform, says Carda.

In his field, geothermal heat pumps, the proper certifications are critical because they determine whether companies can earn rebates from states and utilities.

“We can ask installers to spend three days on training, and sometimes, when they’re finished, they’re not more useful to our company if the training materials are outdated and not specific to the equipment we use,” he says.

HeatSpring courses are developed, taught and maintained by industry experts who keep the courses up to date with rapidly changing industries.

Train Workers in Person and Online

It’s also important to ensure employees are educated both online and in person, says Carda.

“For our install crews, online courses are a great way to introduce crews to concepts, especially high-level concepts,” he says.

But solar and other renewable energy companies shouldn’t stop there. They need to add hands-on learning. That might involve showing employees how to use certain tools or install wiring. 

“You can go through a slide deck but employees never learn the same way as when you do it with your hands in front of the class,” Carda says. 

Rely on Your Company’s Experts for Hands-on Training

Company experts should provide hands-on training to new hires, Carda says. That’s because they’ve done the work “thousands of times.”

 “From a heat pump standpoint, if you’re talking about a refrigeration circuit or how to diagnose an issue with a unit, you’d rely on the head of your service department,” he says.

Overall, using training materials that are as current as possible will help solve labor crunches and keep company employees in the know. 

HeatSpring encourages employers to add custom content into their group courses and in-house expertise can be captured and taught alongside other course content. A recent HeatSpring for Groups custom course developed for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office features hours of in-house expert content from NREL and the DOE solar office.

Training Helps Employees and Companies Address Environmental Issues

What’s more, training and education help companies and their employees address the larger challenge of climate change, says Pedotto. 

“We feel it’s essential that our employees understand the full scope of benefits around using renewable energy, allowing our company to not only have a positive contribution to the climate change movement on a professional level, but a personal one as well.”

Leading Organizations Choose HeatSpring

See why leading organizations like Dandelion, Solect Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office choose HeatSpring for Groups as their destination for team learning.

About the Solar District Cup

The Solar District Cup challenges multidisciplinary student teams to design and model optimized distributed solar energy systems for a campus or urban district. These systems integrate solar, storage, and other technologies across mixed-use districts, or groups of buildings served by a common electrical distribution feeder. The competition engages students in the engineering, urban planning, finance, and related disciplines to reimagine how energy is generated, managed, and used in a district. The Solar District Cup is directed and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. Learn more.