by Sigurd (Siggi) Brocks
Erwin Technical Center Solar PV Instructor
When thinking about solar energy, the Sunshine State may come to mind as being one of the leading states for solar installations. In reality, Florida ranks only 28th in solar jobs per capita, but 14th in solar resource.
In 2012, the Hillsborough County Public School district perceived the need to train future workers for what will certainly be an expanding industry with many potential job opportunities. In September of 2012, the “Solar Photovoltaic System Design, Installation and Maintenance – Entry Level” program was started at Erwin Technical Center by solar instructor Siggi Brocks and electricity instructor Harold Wilson. Both attended the solar photovoltaic (PV) installation training workshops offered at the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) prior to inception of the new program. FSEC’s Southeast Solar Training Network is one of nine Regional Training Providers in the Solar Instructor Training Network.
Erwin Technical Center, part of the Hillsborough County PSD, is one of four public postsecondary career technical centers in the county, offering industrial, business and allied health training to adults.
Erwin’s solar PV program provides 600 hours of instruction, following the State of Florida Department of Education’s curriculum framework. The content is also aligned with the North American Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) learning objectives, and the school is listed as a registered NABCEP Entry Level testing provider.
The teaching methods used in Erwin’s solar program include classroom lectures, computer analytical and design software (CAD), as well as hands-on workshops in electrical wiring and solar installations, and visits to ongoing live solar projects in the field. Students utilize mobile and semi-permanent PV arrays (up to 5000 watts), and get familiar with micro- and string-size inverter systems. One specific advantage students receive by enrolling in the solar program at Erwin Technical Center is the availability of additional instructional support and expertise from teachers in other industrial programs such as plumbing, carpentry, welding, HVAC, drafting, and computer networking.
Since September 2012, Erwin has trained fifteen students in its solar PV program. The school is approved to train qualified veterans, and nine veterans have already entered the program. Graduates have been hired by solar companies throughout the Tampa Bay area.
This program has a strong community advisory committee, comprised of industry experts such as local installers, engineers, manufacturers, utilities operators and educators. This community involvement is seen as key to the success of this training program.
Erwin Technical Center’s solar PV program is continuously educating staff and updating and expanding equipment to keep up with a quickly changing and evolving industry.
Images: Erwin Technical Center