by Julian Spector, The Atlantic CityLab

January 14, 2016

President Barack Obama inspects an array of solar panels at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2009. (Reuters / Jason Reed)

In his 2016 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama made the case that job growth is once more on the rise. Nowhere is that more true than in the domestic solar energy industry, which grew nearly 12 times faster than the overall economy in 2015.

The new data paint a picture of a headstrong industry sprinting forward, perhaps not sustainably so. More and more managers are reporting that it’s hard to find qualified applicants. The difficulty in finding qualified hires shows the need for increased supply of trained workers.

That means expanding solar skills training programs and credentialing, two topics the nonprofit Interstate Renewable Energy Council has been working on for decades. IREC President and CEO Jane Weissman tells CityLab the demand for qualified workers is a sign of the industry’s maturation.

“It used to be one person did it all, from sales to installation to any sort of maintenance,” Weissman says. “That’s just not true any more. You have such occupational differentiation because the market has grown.”

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