Welcome the First Graduating Class of Solar Ready Vets in North Carolina
(Chapel Hill, NC) Ever since the Solar Ready Vets program announced that Fort Bragg, N.C. was on the list of military bases to participate in its pilot program, Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) has embraced the opportunity to offer, at no cost, training for those transitioning out of active duty that prepares them for careers in the solar energy industry.
As part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s SkillBridge initiative, the Solar Ready Vets program unites the workforce development needs of growing solar companies all over the country with trained workers who embody the discipline, motivation and technical skills that come from serving in the military. The four-week program trains soon-to-be veterans for employment as solar photovoltaic (PV) system installers, sales representatives, system inspectors, and other solar-related occupations. The training includes PV, electrical fundamentals and safety. Students graduate with NABCEP entry level and OSHA 30 certifications. There’s also an Operations & Maintenance (O&M) component to serve utility-scale needs.
Chapel Hill based Strata Solar has been working with FTCC to review the curriculum and serve as a resource for understanding the jobs pipeline for solar jobs in North Carolina and throughout the Southeast.
“Strata Solar has been recruiting from the military communities in the areas it serves for years, finding great value in the caliber of workforce that comes from military training and experience,” said Maria Barker, HR Director at Strata. “These veterans are dedicated to the mission of delivering clean energy, and they’re able to quickly apply their military field experience through the many phases of constructing a solar farm. Plus, it’s such a growing industry, the opportunities for advancement are endless.”
Charlene Callahan, the program’s director at FTCC is beaming with pride for the first graduating class. “We are so excited about the success of this program, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of Strata Solar. They’ve been an incredible resource and sounding board for helping us get this program off the ground. They even approached us about adding utility-scale training to the curriculum, knowing that once certified, these new graduates are likely to find employment opportunities on utility-scale farms throughout the region.”
Strata Solar is hosting the graduates on a tour of the 6.5MW farm in Lumber Bridge, N.C. so they can see first-hand what it feels like to be a solar PV installer or inspector.
The NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) is also supporting the initiative, bringing policy leaders together for the graduation to celebrate the success and imminent growth of the program. ”We applaud the Solar Ready Vets program graduates at Fort Bragg,” NCSEA spokeswoman, Emily Becker, commented. “Hiring transitioning military personnel into the solar industry provides the sector with highly skilled, educated, and disciplined workers, while serving those who have honorably served our country.”
According to the 2015 Clean Energy Industry Census, the solar sector accounted for 5,541 full-time equivalent jobs in North Carolina.
FTCC will also host an employer event to introduce rising graduates to solar companies with open positions.
“We actively pursue veteran candidates because we know what they can offer for the growth of the clean energy initiatives in our area,” continued Barker. “This program is empowering them with the knowledge and skills to more easily transition into a career in the rapidly growing solar energy industry. Everyone wins.”
The graduation will be held on Friday, July 15th, and will be attended by policy makers and members of the media.