Once a Mentor Always a Mentor!

by Joe Sarubbi
Project Manager Solar Instructor Training Network

In many ways, the attributes associated with raising a family are quite applicable to the SITN – with IREC as national administrator and the relationships between the Regional Training Providers (RTPs) and their partner institutions and instructor trainees. We start out raising our “family” with a commitment to consistency, then quickly realize that each member has very individualized needs and goals. So we concentrate on providing the resources and guidance to help us reach our individual and collective potential.

Over the last five years, the RTPs worked hard to build relationships and gain the trust of their partnering institutions and their respective instructors, each with their own set of ideas and tracks. And successful they were! Today, solar programs all across the country are thriving and providing the industry with a talent pipeline. And IREC has been right by their side, working closely with the RTPs, providing tailored guidance and support, helping them adjust their training plans, and developing industry-proven education and training resources to help ensure growth and success of these nascent solar programs.

And the Beat Goes On!

Keeping community college PV training relevant is the ultimate goal. To accomplish this, bringing together educators and industry is more important than ever, to keep up with changing solar technology and market changes. A new model – the PV Instructor Training Summit – proved immensely successful, first on the west coast, at Long Beach City College. The group of 40 solar educators and industry representatives took the opportunity to dive deep into conversation, so educators learned more about solar workforce needs and the specific skills those hiring solar professionals are looking for in employees.

“We’re so hungry for qualified students that we would work with colleges to do all kinds of things: open houses, barbeques, shadowing programs, whatever it takes to make relationships and hires.”This was the sentiment from Christian Mack, operations recruiting manager for SunRun.

The success of the west coast summit provided great momentum to replicate the process on the east coast, at the NC Clean Energy Technology Center at NC State University.

Most important to our work, always, is sharing successes and best practices so they can be replicated. In this issue of the SITN Quarterly is news of a new project that puts an online interactive twist on making that happen. Together, a number of midwest states recently kicked off the Solar Instructor Community of Practice, a free online resource for instructors and program leaders to access and share the latest information and strategies for PV training and solar market development. Read what IREC award winning Kankakee Community College instructor Tim Wilhelm says about the new model for sharing best practices and honing solar instruction skills.

Also in this issue, read how IBEWs in the northwest are working with the SITN to ensure that electrical apprentices are gaining the requisite solar skills to work safely and efficiently on jobs that include solar systems.

And stay tuned in the months to come to hear about some exciting work we’re just beginning with firefighters and other first responders to incorporate knowledge of solar systems, so they are confident of their abilities to work quickly and safely in emergency situations where solar systems are operational.

More Vets in the pipeline!

You read in my last column about the success of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Reach for the Sun solar PV veteran training program. I’m happy to report that Solar Energy International continues to provide amazing solar training at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, and now Penn State University is about to launch similar training at the Naval Station Norfolk, with IREC continuing to support these efforts.

A family that works together sticks together!

While seven of the nine RTPs ended their contractual obligation to the Department of Energy for the SITN initiative this past June, all of them agreed to continue to work with IREC and participate in activities that support the SITN. Like parents wanting to see their children grow, the RTPs have a similar desire to see their great work continue. Now that’s a family!!



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