Next month, The Solar Foundation will officially merge with IREC into a single, expanded nonprofit dedicated to the rapid adoption of clean energy. Over the next few months, we will be featuring the three newly combined IREC programs—Workforce Development, Local Initiatives, and Regulatory Reform—with facts, faces, and Q&A to get to know the programs’ initiatives and projects as well as team members!

This month, we talked with the Workforce Development team to discuss in their own words the focus of the team’s work, projects they’re currently working on, what they like best about what they do, and why they’re looking forward to the merger.

  • Laure-Jeanne Davignon, Workforce Program Vice President
  • Kristen Ferguson, Director of Training and Development
  • Anna Sullivan, Director of Credentialing
  • Richard Lawrence, Program Director
  • Amy Saurer, Assistant Director of Training and Development
  • Michelle Barrett, Senior Project Manager
  • Megan Howes, Program Specialist
  • Mary Lawrence, Project Coordinator
  • Joe Sarubbi, Technical Education and Training Consultant

See their bios here and here to learn more!

Our Workforce Development Programs

The combined organization’s scope will include all renewable energy technologies (distributed and utility-scale) as well as energy efficiency. It will drive change via three strategic pathways: regulatory engagement, workforce development, and local initiatives (including permitting, code, and inspection issues). 

Q&A With the Workforce Team

1. In your own words, tell us about the focus of the Workforce Development team’s work. Why is it so important to the growth of clean energy? 

Laure-Jeanne: The Workforce team focuses on activities and programs that increase workforce capacity in alignment with bold federal, state and municipal clean energy goals. This includes supporting strategies to develop a robust and diverse training- to- jobs pipeline to drive industry growth.

Richard: Without workers there is no clean energy! Quality workforce development and training programs are essential for long-term industry growth and acceptance. Deficiencies in work performance resulting from poor quality or insufficient training can have a significant impact with customers and regulators.

Without workers there is no clean energy! Quality workforce development and training programs are essential for long-term industry growth and acceptance.

2. What are the most important things the team is currently working on? What’s coming up?

Laure-Jeanne: Workforce strategies to reach bold clean energy goals, including national coordination activities focused on increasing the number, quality, and diversity of clean energy workers. In the context of the new federal administration and the American Jobs Plan, we anticipate a lot more opportunities for IREC to leverage our range of workforce skills to inform policies, programs, and industry growth. 

Anna: IREC’s Credentialing Program is constantly evolving the services we offer to support clean energy training providers, employers, and workers. Our work as an accrediting body and national standards developer for clean energy training continues to provide an important framework and layer of quality assurance. But our team also facilitates a range of other technical assistance, innovative workforce development tools, and resources to help those training the clean energy workforce, from strategies to deploy new instructional techniques and delivery modes, to new methods for learning and competency assessment and micro-credentialing. 

Richard: The workforce project that I have been most involved with is the Solar Ready Vets Network. This Department of Energy-funded initiative connects veterans and transitioning service members with training, certifications, and jobs in the solar industry, and helps employers recruit and retain military talent. One innovative part of this project is the Solar Ready Vets Fellowship, which matches mid- to senior-level professionals, who have degrees and relevant military leadership and experience, with a broad spectrum of professional and leadership roles across the industry as they begin their civilian careers. 

Amy: Three projects to note:  

Weatherization Assistance Program Grantee Administrative Training, an online training program to help administrative staff at subgrantee organizations of U.S. DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program. 

Training Safety Officials on Distributed Energy Technologies project, which will provide a variety of educational training and resources for safety officials on solar, energy storage systems, electric vehicles, and grid-interactive efficient buildings. 

Solar App+ training modules. Solar contractors will use this app to apply for an automatic permit, greatly reducing waiting time.

3. What is something you want people to know about the Workforce team?

Laure-Jeanne: Collectively, our team’s expertise spans almost every aspect of workforce development, from training development to credentialing to stakeholder engagement to building robust talent pipelines. We’re one of very few teams addressing broad clean energy workforce development, rather than focusing on one technology.

Richard: The main thing I want people to know about the workforce team is that we are eager and ready to do even more! As the clean energy industry continues on an accelerated growth trajectory, the work to develop a skilled and capable labor force increases in tow. Our team is ready to help employers, training providers, job seekers, and the organizations, government entities, and institutions that support them.

4. What excites you about the upcoming merger?

Anna: I’m very excited about our expanded team’s experience, competencies and approaches in the field of clean energy workforce development! The projects that our teams work on complement each other in a variety of synergistic ways, and I’m delighted to be able to offer the clean energy sector with a dynamic range of programs and services that prepare our workforce for the ambitious clean energy targets we need to meet in the coming decades.

Laure-Jeanne: IREC has been asking industry, government, and other stakeholders to deconstruct the silos that prevent us from effectively collaborating to address big challenges. I love that with this merger, we are “walking the walk” by bringing together two great organizations under one umbrella that will enable us to have greater impact and better leverage resources. 

IREC has been asking industry, government and other stakeholders to deconstruct the silos that prevent us from effectively collaborating to address big challenges. I love that with this merger, we are “walking the walk” by bringing together two great organizations under one umbrella that will enable us to have greater impact and better leverage resources.

Richard: I’ve been engaged with IREC regularly throughout my career and know many of the staff and programs well. I’m excited about the merger because of how well the staff and programs at both organizations complement each other. By coming together, the team will be able to make a greater impact.

Mary: I’ve worked for IREC for almost a decade now and this merger really feels like a springboard for growth in our reach and impact. The merger feels like a tangible sign of this growth.

5. What is your favorite part about the work you do?

Kristen: My favorite part is that it is a positive contribution to the planet. Although a small piece of the puzzle, it really feels like what IREC does matters, and I’m proud to be a part of an organization with such longevity in the clean energy industry and vision.

Megan: Every day I enjoy working alongside a dynamic, talented, and dedicated team. It’s gratifying to know that the work we do to build up a clean energy workforce connects individuals with energizing and empowering careers, and lays the groundwork for a brighter, more equitable and sustainable future.  

Amy: I love continuously learning about new technologies, contributing to programs that have a huge and positive impact, and working closely with people who have a shared vision of a clean energy future.

Anna: I love seeing the results of our programs and services, and hearing first-hand from those on the front lines who benefit from our support. Some of our work happens “back-stage”, but at the end of each day, seeing the impact we are having makes me feel optimistic about the viability of an energy future that is efficient, renewable, and equitable for all. 

Richard: I entered the clean energy education and workforce development field nearly 20 years ago because sustainable energy offered a win-win-win solution to many of the biggest social, environmental, economic, and security issues humanity was facing, particularly climate change. It seems like the problems have only become bigger since then, but the solutions have improved greatly, are now fully up for the task, are finally being embraced the world over, and are making huge positive impacts today. There’s never been a better time to enter the clean energy workforce, and I’m thrilled to be joining the team at IREC to help realize the vision of a world powered by renewable energy!

Mary: IREC is a convener. We bring people and organizations together to work towards common goals. I love being a part of these collaborations.

Stay tuned for another Q&A with the Local Initiatives and Regulatory Reform teams!