So why did these innovative students choose power engineering? First-year Ph.D. student Jose Cordova explains: “With renewables, it’s even more important to integrate them into the grid . . . to help the environment and become more efficient. I want to make a difference, and working in the power grid means making a big impact.”
In many ways, the attributes associated with raising a family are quite applicable to the SITN – with IREC as national administrator and the relationships between the Regional Training Providers (RTPs) and their partner institutions and instructor trainees. Today, solar programs all across the country are thriving and providing the industry with a talent pipeline.
President Obama announced a new goal to train 75,000 people to enter the solar workforce by 2020, some of whom will be veterans. This 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.
Building a national, highly-qualified, well-trained clean energy workforce takes time. And work. And vision. Now, after five years, we’re seeing stunning results from the confluence of the work of innovative instructors, supportive administrators at educational institutions, and long-term vision from DOE’s SunShot Initiative.
When I worked as an electrician, I knew that most people had little idea how much effort went into installing a light and switch in a home. They only saw the end product – the light and switch – and didn’t always “value” the time and effort it took to install those devices. They rarely saw all my work accomplished within the walls.
In the summer, I tend to listen to music more often than during the rest of the year. During my formative years, I was a fan of the rock group Pink Floyd, and yes, I still enjoy their music today. One of their more famous songs, “Another Brick in the Wall,” was released in 1979, the same year I started teaching, so it has special meaning to me. I made a pact with myself that I would never be just another brick in the wall, and I’d like to think that over my 32-year teaching career, I’ve made a difference.
There can’t be a much stronger seal of approval to a program’s success than to hear support for its growth straight from the president. Listening to a live feed of President Obama’s comments a few weeks ago on new clean energy initiatives, it was a proud moment for the SITN to hear of his support for additional investment in building a competent solar workforce.
Timing, as they say, is everything. In politics. In baseball. I’d also posit that talent and vision are close cousins. And in the case of the Solar Instructor Training Network, I’d add one more: favorable global economics. The speed and magnitude of change in the global solar market has been spectacular if not daunting. Who knew, four years ago, that the industry would see year-after-year of exponential growth, fueling the demand and need for a highly-trained solar workforce?