Proud & Poised: SITN Transforming Training for Today and Tomorrow’s Solar Workforce

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.

POTUS at Wal-Mart Mountain View CA May 9, 2014Listening 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.

The broadly distributed White House announcement said this: “To enable a skilled workforce to support the growth of solar deployment across America, the DOE’s Solar Instructor Training Network will support training programs at community colleges across the country that will assist 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020. This builds upon SunShot’s existing Solar Instructor Training Network of nearly 400 community colleges in 49 states that have trained over 22,000 people to join the solar industry since 2010.”

Yes, we should all be very proud. And here’s the rest of the story.

SITN Regional Training ProvidersThanks to the market-valued online learning programs developed by the Regional Training Providers (RTPs) of the SITN, solar education and training has had a transformational effect – individuals around the country are getting the right training and getting jobs, and the solar industry continues to expand with the confidence that the SITN is working hard to provide a qualified, readied workforce.

The flexible schedule of online learning, coupled with the speed in which people can complete their educational goals, allows for more rapid career changes or advancement. And this has greatly benefitted the solar industry.

Educational institutions and organizations across the country have provided solar education online to thousands of individuals seeking to gain an understanding of solar technology. In fact, the exponential growth of solar installations was possible in part to solar companies finding individuals with the necessary skill sets to support this growth.

How did educational institutions ratchet-up so quickly – with training that meets high standards and industry needs? They trained the trainers through the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN).

The SITN has played a huge role over the last four years in providing the necessary skill sets to instructors seeking to develop their own solar programs, throughout the country. The nine Regional Training Providers (RTPs) of the SITN created exceptional solar online programs to support the learning of these instructor-trainees, which expedited the delivery of quality solar education and training at their respective institutions. A “hybrid learning” approach, in which online programs are followed by participation in hands-on training at RTP facilities, helped round out instructors’ knowledge and understanding.

PVOT house 969x360The fast-paced growth of the solar industry also created a need for code inspectors to quickly become knowledgeable in solar installations. To support the tens-of-thousands of code officials in over 16,000 jurisdictions throughout the country, IREC created for the SunShot Initiative photovoltaic online training for code officials (PVOT). A self-paced, self-directed online program, consisting of six, page-turner lessons and a game-based 3-D immersive capstone lesson that takes inspectors through a virtual inspection of a residential home, PVOT has helped thousands of code officials and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) gain an understanding of residential solar installations.

As word continues to get out about PVOT, IREC is receiving more inquiries from stakeholders seeking to provide PVOT to large groups of inspectors in a particular region, and IREC is helping facilitate these efforts.

To further enhance the knowledge of code officials and AHJs, the Regional Training Providers, in conjunction with the International Association of Code Inspectors (IAEI), have been offering one-day code workshops throughout jurisdictions across the U.S.

So, yes, Mr. President, we’ve been busy. And we’re ready for the next challenge!

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