Defining a qualified worker looks very different today from just 20 years ago for many employment sectors in the United States, including clean energy. The primacy of a traditional four-year college degree for a number of job roles is changing, and professional training, Associates-level vocational degrees, industry certifications, pre-hire assessment tools, skill-based badging, and other forms of competency validation are creating new pathways to prosperity and rewarding careers. 

As a result of this trend, IREC’s Credentialing Program is seeing renewed interest and investment in clean energy training program accreditation, as training providers strive to differentiate themselves in more crowded markets and demonstrate to their stakeholders the quality and strengths of their programs against IREC’s rigorous Standard. 

In this article, we explore the value that training program accreditation, instructor certification, and micro-credentials offer to industry players, from workers weighing the merits of different job training options, to employers trying to assess the strength of a candidate’s qualifications. 

IREC Accreditation: Quality Assurance for Clean Energy Trainees

The value being placed on professional training and testing puts the spotlight firmly on the quality of clean energy training and certification programs. If job seekers, incumbent workers, and employers invest in professional training, many now involving online learning components, how can they be assured that the job training program will yield a return on that investment and adequately prepare the learner to perform a job successfully? 

One answer: training program accreditation.

IREC accreditation provides independent, third-party validation of the quality of clean energy job training programs. The accreditation assessment confirms that the training program is equipped to teach students the full range of knowledge, skills, and abilities identified in an industry-vetted job task analysis. 

Moreover, the training program must facilitate the acquisition of these essential competencies in a way that maximizes learner engagement and assesses an individual’s progress toward mastering course learning objectives.

Accreditation also validates the safety of the learning environment and the effective implementation of the training provider’s safety plan, as well as the curricular emphasis on safe work practices for clean energy workers. Indeed, from safety to cutting-edge learning resources and program design, the myriad aspects of a training program’s quality management system that are scrutinized during the IREC accreditation process provide an added layer of confidence for the clean energy workforce when choosing a job training program.

Instructor Certification: Recognizing Excellence in Individual Trainers

Instructor certification, another offering under IREC’s Credentialing Program, provides an additional layer of quality assurance, this time focused on the certified instructor’s individual approach to quality. 

From the use of advanced instructional techniques to extensive education and field experience in a specific clean energy technology, IREC’s national cohort of certified instructors and master trainers is leading the way in ensuring that their students enter the clean energy workforce capable of delivering safety and quality on the job. 

Micro-Credentials: Skill Validation for the Modern Workplace 

Finally, IREC’s work over the past 8 years in the pioneering arena of rigorous yet nimble micro-credentials for the clean energy sector has resulted in another valuable tool to validate competency, especially for “allied workers” and those whose jobs intersect with clean energy but who are not primarily employed in a clean energy sector. 

Micro-credentials are typically narrower in focus than full-scope certifications, validating a subset of job skills and knowledge, or add-on skills. When developed within a robust framework, micro-credentials offer workers and employers tailored and reliable verification of competencies for a range of job responsibilities.  

IREC has facilitated job training and micro-credentialing for diverse audiences across the country whose work intersects with clean energy and energy efficiency, including apartment maintenance technicians, energy auditors, healthy home evaluators, quality control inspectors, fire fighters, code officials and real estate professionals. The stackable micro-credential model deployed for some of these initiatives has proven itself to be a significant value-add to the landscape of clean energy worker recruitment, professional development, and quality assurance.

High quality micro-credentials provide timely workforce solutions to help meet the needs of employers in recruiting and promoting personnel with the right blend of validated skills within a cost-effective and responsive framework. We are seeing that they are becoming essential tools for our rapidly evolving industry. 

IREC’s Credentialing Program continues to refine and innovate our worker and training program credentialing services, in addition to a range of other workforce strategies and interventions IREC undertakes to support the clean energy sector. 

In collaboration with our partnering institutions and instructors, these efforts combine to bridge the gap between job seekers and employers and strengthen the quality of clean energy technology deployed in the United States. In turn, this helps to sustain a robust industry and increase market confidence in the end product, bringing us ever closer to realizing a clean energy future that benefits all.