“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.”
 Christian Mack, Operations Recruiting Manager, SunRun

That was the tone of the first Solar Instructor Training Summit, a gathering of 40 community college educators, training managers and representatives from the solar industry. Hosted by IREC, the national administrator of the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN) and the California/Hawaii Regional Training Partnership, the day-long forum provided the opportunity to learn about workforce needs from those hiring solar industry professionals, including the types of skills in demand by PV installation companies, and innovative approaches for community colleges to keep PV training relevant.

Gerry Bernstein CA/HI RTP shares insights about solar workforce training
Gerry Bernstein CA/HI RTP shares insights about solar workforce training

Part of the success of the program was the opportunity for participants to ask and answer hard questions about quality training and the solar industry’s needs. This sets the stage for the upcoming second SITN PV Instructor Summit, April 23, at North Carolina State University.

Since 2010, the SITN has been leading national development and sharing of best practices for educational and training programs that build a well-qualified clean energy workforce. Since that time, more than 1,000 instructor trainees have received training. Roughly 30,000 students have gone through courses taught by those instructor trainees through the national network of nine regional training providers (RTPs).

“We’re hearing from industry and companies who are looking for those quality-trained workers,” said Joe Sarubbi, SITN project manager. “They want to know where are the SITN-trained institutions, and how they can get access to those students. That’s why we decided to hold these solar instructor training summits—it’s the logical next step to connect the solar industry with educators and trainers.