“Time keeps on Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’ into the Future”

As I sat down to write this column for the last SITN newsletter, these lyrics (Steve Miller Band 1976) popped into my head. For those of you who remember them, you might find them as appropriate as I do.

What a difference five years makes. Since 2010, the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN) has become the benchmark for building a highly qualified, well-trained solar workforce. Thanks to the vision and support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, this cohesive network of nine Regional Training Providers (RTPs), IREC and DOE championed vitally relevant issues in workforce development and solar training and education.

Designing a national network to educate and train a solar workforce is not an inconsequential task. It takes time. And energy. And vision. So while the SITN as originally envisioned is ending, it leaves an exemplary legacy of resources and relationships, and a network of institutions and organizations that will continue to provide solar education and training into the future.

Here’s an example.

Collectively, the RTPs offered training to more than 1,000 instructor trainees and more than 30,000 students at nearly 500 partnering institutions/organizations during its five year history. We watched a nascent solar industry grow at breakneck speed. Lives changed. Communities transformed. An industry workforce matured. In just five years.

With industry subject matter experts as allies, IREC developed a suite of indispensable resources for trainers to grow existing solar education and training programs, or start new ones.

As you’ll learn in this issue, two of those resources have been updated and enhanced, and a brand new resource is making a timely debut:

  • Solar Career Map 3.0. Completely refreshed with a dynamic new interface and user-friendly navigation, the new solar career map explores 40 jobs (including seven new ones) across four industry sectors and three levels of education and experience. It shows high-quality training and the credentials necessary both to build the industry and to advance in it. Also included are five short videos with 18 solar professionals about what they see, do and teach in the industry, organized around key themes.
  • Photovoltaic Online Training Course for Code Officials (PVOT). More timely than ever, the updated 2015 PVOT has been amended for code compliance with the 2008, 2011 and 2014 versions of the National Electric Code (NEC). As if that’s not enough, PVOT now features a new lesson from the 2012 International Fire, Building and Residential codes.
  • NEW: Best Practices in Online PV Course Development. How do people learn? What teaching strategies are most effective? Can solar content be successfully taught online? This new resource was designed so instructors can use best practices to help students learn solar content, in both online and traditional settings.

IREC is currently developing another online course for firefighters, focusing on rapid shutdown of residential and commercial solar PV systems, to ensure the safety of firefighters and other first responders. Keep an eye out for an early 2016 release.

As the SITN comes to a close, the RTPs that existed specifically to partner with regional institutions and provide train-the-trainer activities are no longer functioning in that capacity. However, their high quality solar training is still available at their individual institutions/organizations. For information, contact them directly [MAP]. And to learn about more solar training opportunities, check out IREC’s Clean Energy Training Directory.

Just five years ago, there was nothing like the SITN. Into the future, the Department of Energy plans to continue to leverage the SITN as a solar training network, to ensure workforce efforts supporting the solar industry continue.

The work of SITN has been, from the outset, a group effort of many voices and ideas. We’ve been in sync, steadfastly developing a strong impact culture, nimble and responsive to a lightning-fast evolving solar industry. As national administrator of SITN, we know we couldn’t have accomplished what we did independently or without each other. It’s been ambitious and enormously satisfying work.

And on a personal note, it’s been a pleasure and deep source of pride to have worked alongside such deep thinkers in the solar education and training space. Hats off to my esteemed colleagues.



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