Image: The White House

As national administrator of the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN), IREC has had many proud moments since the SITN was created just five years ago. This week, with higher than ever solar workforce goals announced by President Obama, we look down the road to an even brighter clean energy future.

President Obama announced several actions to drive growth in the solar industry, to ramp up the quality training of more solar workers, and support our veterans in the process.

The target is now to train 75,000 people to enter the solar workforce by 2020, some of whom will be veterans. The original goal was 50,000, announced just one year ago.

The new goal builds on the tremendous progress of the DOE SunShot Initiative’s Solar Instructor Training Network, which includes nearly 500 partnering educational institutions across the country. To date, more than 1,000 solar instructors have trained through the SITN and an estimated 30,000 students have received some amount of training from them.

But it isn’t just a numbers game.

The big picture view recognizes that putting out large numbers of potential solar employees isn’t enough. The SITN (and the administration) recognizes that the benefit of this successful initiative is that these instructors, and ultimately their students, are trained to the highest standards, with the right combination of classroom and hands-on learning.

IREC and the SITN’s regional training providers have created national best practices, based not only on excellent education and training programs, but by working closely work with industry. So the goal is not just 75,000 trained solar workers, but workers trained to high learning standards that match skills to jobs. And that’s the importance of the president tying this initiative to the SITN.

SolarReadyVets Utah_040315
Image: Chris Nichols

The president also mentioned the launch of the Solar Ready Vets Program, a DOE program in partnership with the Department of Defense (DOD), in which veterans at 10 military bases across the country will receive solar training before they leave military service. I had the pleasure to help shape the first pilot veteran training programs that took place over the last several weeks. They will serve as models for the expanded initiative announced by the administration. We were so proud to report that the graduates from the first three-week training program at Camp Pendleton resulted in all graduates receiving job offers!

According to the Obama administration the Solar Ready Vets program will train transitioning military service personnel to enter the solar workforce by joining with SunShot’s Solar Instructor Training Network. This accelerated training will prepare them for careers in the solar industry as installers, sales representatives, system inspectors, and other solar-related occupations.

Once again, thank you, Mr. President.