ISPQ: Building the Renewable Energy Workforce


It’s been busier than usual for IREC’s renewable energy training and accreditation department.   As we approach 2010, we find ourselves, collectively, immersed in a place that we’ve wished for and dreamed about for decades: a real, viable renewable energy market in the U.S.  IREC’s Annual Meeting and Solar Power International 2009 conference in Anaheim last month was an impressive gathering of the industry—nearly 25K attendees and some 1,000 exhibitors, all of whom, it seemed, were talking about building the green workforce.

For IREC, it’s about using a well-built, international standard for training programs accreditation and instructor certification to build and sustain a quality renewable energy workforce.   Standards measure performance and identify critical aspects of a product or service.  When standards are followed, consumers can be assured that they are getting  consistency and quality in their product or service.

Say hello to the Institute for Sustainable Power Quality (ISPQ) International Standard 01021.

“For an organization or individual to go through the ISPQ process,” said Pat Fox, IREC’s point person on ISPQ, “means that they get it.  They place a high value on quality and competence, and they’re in it for the long term.”

Since July 2005, IREC has been the North American Licensee for the ISPQ International 01021 Standard for Renewable Energy Training Accreditation and Instructor Certification Programs.   As a licensee, IREC is responsible for the full accreditation and certification cycle including processing applications, assigning registered auditors, awarding the credential, and maintaining all records of applicants, candidates and awardees.

Here’s the thing.

Renewable energy is everywhere, from Anaheim to Albany, from Bozeman to Brownsville.  And because it’s everywhere, people are becoming familiar with the technologies and, not surprisingly, realizing opportunities. They’re entering the industry in droves, ratcheting up demand for quality renewable energy training programs and instructors.

“As programs become accredited and individuals become certified, consumers gain confidence in their skills and products, and we build a qualified and competent renewable energy workforce,” said Fox.

In order to become accredited or certified, institutions and individuals must satisfy the requirements of ISPQ Standard 01021. The Standard describes ethical and practical requirements for candidates, including commitments to confidentiality, non-discrimination, quality, and professionalism.  The Standard outlines requirements for quality program management and administration, sets forth requirements for curriculum, facilities, resources, tools, and safety.  It requires trainers and program staff to have appropriate experience, defined job descriptions, and adequate training to perform their jobs competently.  Candidates must demonstrate, through the application and audit process, that they fulfill the requirements of ISPQ Standard 01021.

“ISPQ is the right way to go,” said Fox, “not only for consumer protection, but those who become ISPQ accredited or certified know that they’ve been trained to a high standard of safety and competency.  Part of the ISPQ process looks at financial stability; does the organization have the financial legs to be around tomorrow?  Applicants who go through the ISPQ process and attain certification or accreditation are helping build the quality renewable energy workforce we need.”

The ISPQ Standard 01021 uses industry-approved ‘content standards’ that describe what a quality training program should teach.  These content standards, called Task Analyses, are specific to a technology and a job.  The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, (NABCEP) is fully aware of industry-approved ‘content standards’ through their three Task Analyses:  for solar PV installers, for solar thermal installers, and for small wind installers.  The NABCEP Task Analyses define skills and abilities that these installers should have; the PV Task Analyses also informs the exams by which candidates for NABCEP certification can demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

IREC offers five ISPQ designations: Accreditation for Training Programs, Accreditation for Continuing Education Providers, Certification for Independent Master Trainers, Certification for Affiliated Master Trainers, and Certification for Instructors.

Currently, there are 20 ISPQ-accredited training programs and continuing education providers, nine certified master trainers, and 16 certified instructors.

According to Fox, the number of ISPQ applications for training program accreditation and instructor certification received by IREC is up by 200% from 2008.

“We’ve seen an increase in applications across the board,” said Fox, “from accreditation to certifications.  We’re seeing phenomenal growth in the number of training programs offered, plus a large number of individuals requesting certification.  There’s absolutely no slowing this train down.”


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