To address climate change, local governments are moving toward electrification, embracing solar energy, heat pumps, energy storage and electric vehicles.
But there aren’t enough people to fill the positions needed to transition to electrification. In addition, solar and other renewable industry workers need to improve their technical expertise to meet the more stringent electrical requirements being enacted by local and state governments. What’s more, industry members need ongoing training because the technologies are always changing.
The Workforce Bottleneck in Solar
For example, ReVision Energy, an employee-owned solar company, has about 30 open positions, which, when filled, will represent a 10% increase in staffing, says HeatSpring instructor Vaughan Woodruff, Revision Energy Training Center Director.
“The bottleneck is the workforce. Our installation queues are increasing,” he says. “Given the technology we’re working with, we see a growing need. I don’t think it would be stretching it to say we’re seeing 15% to 20% growth year over year. We need a workforce to support us in that.” In Maine, an aging workforce and few young people to fill positions pose a challenge, he says.
Needed: Installers, Designers, Engineers, Drafters, Trained Electricians
Most needed are people who can fill technical positions, including installers, designers, drafters and engineers. In addition, electricians trained specifically in solar are needed.
“We aren’t dealing with static things. We have to understand building orientation, shading and when solar is available based on weather and climate. Even if we have skilled electrical engineers, there’s training needed,” says Woodruff.
The good news: People, especially Millennials, want to work in the solar industry. They want to be part of an industry that’s doing good in the world, he says.
To help fill the training gap, Woodruff heads up the Revision Energy Training Center, a first-of-its-kind center that provides state-certified electrical training, including the ReVision Energy Electrical Apprenticeship Program (REEAP). The training is unique in part because of its focus on being as worker-friendly as possible.
An Employee-Friendly Approach to Training
The company pays for its employees–who are also owners in the company–to be trained, and offers the training in-house so that employees don’t have to pursue education at night.
In New Hampshire and Massachusetts, REEAP is a 4-year program that allows participants to be eligible for their Journeyman Electrical License. In Maine, it’s a two 2-year program that leads to a Limited Electrical License.
But the training center is not the only way Revision educates its employees.
“We’re in the process of expanding beyond the electricians’ apprenticeship,” says Woodruff. “We’re looking to provide technical education for the customer service team and design and engineering teams and leadership training across the organization.”
Training with Lunch and Learns, Weekly Check-Ins, Online Courses
To meet this goal, the company offers a number of education options, including optional “lunch and learns,” departmental-level training from company experts, and courses through HeatSpring. What’s more, ReVision organizes weekly check-ins, which allow employees who encounter specific challenges to pose questions to others in the organization. The service team can be a critical source of information for responding to questions about installation challenges.
“My role in leading the Revision Energy Training Center is to bring all those things together under one roof and organize them in a way that’s accessible and comprehensive and can help formally support an employee’s professional development plan,” says Woodruff.
He’s excited that people interested in the industry are passionate about renewable energy work. With ReVision Energy, they have many ways to get trained and succeed in the industry.
Finding Curious, Hard-Working Employees
“If you have a work ethic and curiosity, there are so many pathways to success,” says Woodruff. “We have been targeted in hiring people who do have those qualities and we have been super fortunate. The success of our organizations is dependent on the success of the individuals who make up the organizations.”
Photos courtesy of Revision Energy