The Solar Ready Vets Network is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. IREC has led this work since 2019, in partnership with leading solar industry, training and credentialing, and veterans career service organizations. Previously, the program was led by The Solar Foundation, which merged with IREC in 2021.
As of 2023, our project team includes the Solar Energy Industries Association, Hiring Our Heroes (a program of the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation), Solar Energy International, and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.
History of Solar Ready Vets
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy launched a Solar Ready Vets® pilot program to prepare veterans for solar energy industry careers as photovoltaic system installers, sales representatives, system inspectors, and other solar-related occupations. The pilot program was administered by The Solar Foundation beginning in 2016. In 2017, the pilot ended and Solar Ready Vets became an independent program administered by participating military bases, using a variety of tools and partnerships developed during the pilot phase. Altogether, the pilot program graduated 526 students from 35 cohorts in 10 different states across the country.
The Solar Ready Vets pilot program was enabled by the U.S. Department of Defense’s SkillBridge initiative, which allows exiting military personnel to pursue civilian job training, employment skills training, apprenticeships, and internships up to six months prior to their separation. The pilot program prepared soon-to-be-inactive military personnel to be strong candidates for positions in management, PV installation, sales, and other technical and non-technical positions.
The Solar Ready Vets pilot program was developed based on the specific needs of high-growth solar employers and was tailored to build on the technical skills that veterans acquire through their service. Each cohort trained approximately 20 active military personnel per class and each class lasted between four to six weeks. Programs included hands-on instruction that took place in a classroom setting, though some cohorts had a hybrid format of online and in-person classes. There were no out-of-pocket costs for participating service members or military bases.
Toward the end of the course, students took the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Exam to earn the most widely recognized entry-level PV installation credential across the country. After graduation from a Solar Ready Vets pilot cohort, service members interviewed with leading national and regional solar companies for a wide variety of jobs within the industry.
Military bases were selected by DOE, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and military branches, based on the number of exiting military personnel from the installation, the strength of the surrounding solar market, and the training capacity of nearby training institutions.
The Solar Ready Vets Network
In 2019, The Solar Foundation renewed the Solar Ready Vets program to enhance and streamline options for military service members and veterans to pursue solar training, certification, and employment, while advancing solar employers’ efforts and capacity to invest in military talent as part of a long-term workforce development strategy. IREC led the program following its merger with The Solar Foundation in 2021.Several direct-impact and capacity building initiatives, collectively the Solar Ready Vets Network, were carried out in partnership with Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program (HOH) and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
The Solar Ready Vets Network strengthened solar career pathways and promoted increased representation of military talent across all levels and sectors of the solar workforce. A work-based learning fellowship model connected transitioning service members with on-the-job experience in leadership roles with solar employers nationwide. The project advanced veteran recruitment and talent development by expanding GI Bill eligibility for training and credentialing and streamlining veterans’ pathways to industry training and certification, supported direct connections to jobs with top solar employers, and led coordination among key training and industry partners to advance registered apprenticeship models aligned with solar career pathways.
The relationships established and work accomplished through this project will have an enduring positive impact well beyond the funding period. As of 2023, we’ve embarked on a new phase of the program and invite all solar employers, veterans and military-connected solar professionals to join us.