The aptitudes and experiences gained through military service—such as dynamic leadership, teamwork and critical thinking skills, technical specialization, and a mission-completion work ethic—make veterans exceptional candidates for a wide range of solar energy careers. America’s rapidly growing solar and storage industry offers a highly collaborative and purpose-driven work environment that resonates with service members and veterans looking to rise to their next challenge. 

The Solar Ready Vets NetworkTM is a collection of initiatives funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to strengthen solar career pathways for veterans, and support the industry’s efforts to invest in military talent. Led by IREC, this work is carried out nationwide in partnership with leading industry, training, and veterans services organizations including the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Hiring our Heroes (HOH), Solar Energy International (SEI), and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA). 

Solar Ready Vets has existed in different formats since the Department of Energy initiated the program in 2014. We’re now proud to announce that IREC and our partners have secured additional funding to build on recent milestones and continue this important work. Read on to learn more about all that our team has accomplished so far, and how we plan to expand the reach and impact of these efforts in the years to come.

SkillBridge Transitions

Each year, about 200,000 men and women leave military service. The Department of Defense SkillBridge program allows service members to pursue career training before transition, setting them up for success to bring their diverse skills to a wide range of industries. Since 2019, our team has worked to support and promote SkillBridge opportunities aligned with diverse solar industry career pathways. 

The Solar Ready Vets Fellowship, implemented through the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program, is recognized as one such SkillBridge program. So far, we’ve placed close to 100 service members with solar employers in roles such as project management, operations and logistics, communications, policy, and more, facilitating a smooth transition from active duty to leadership roles in the civilian solar workforce. As our partner Hiring Our Heroes launches a new, complementary Skills-Based Fellowship model, we look forward to connecting a much wider pool of military talent with solar fellowships opportunities in 2024 and beyond.

As we continue to support veteran recruitment partnerships for solar employers with Hiring Our Heroes and additional SkillBridge training partners, we will also develop and implement a standardized, solar industry-specific SkillBridge training model targeting high-demand, entry-level roles. With new SRV partner Solar Energy International, our team is launching a consensus-based process with industry and training stakeholders to define learning outcomes and program structures, then pilot the new training model in 2024. Employers, please reach out if your company is interested in contributing to the SkillBridge group.

Aligning Registered Apprenticeships with Solar Career Pathways

By providing comprehensive training and a clearly defined, high-quality career pathway, registered apprenticeship programs are another great way to attract and develop veteran talent. Particularly with the labor provisions introduced by the Inflation Reduction Act, apprenticeships will increasingly be a key strategy to develop and scale the solar workforce. 

Through Solar Ready Vets, IREC and SEIA will continue to support employers navigating the apprenticeship landscape with technical assistance resources. We also look forward to collaborating with our new partner, Midwest Renewable Energy Association to establish and register National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards that will align existing DOL-approved occupations with the workforce needs of solar employers. These guideline standards will be available for any solar employer to use in designing and administering an apprenticeship program for those occupations. Similar to the SkillBridge initiative, we are convening a working group of employers to help inform the development of these standards: employers, please reach out if your company is interested in participating. This work will supplement IREC’s efforts as a DOL industry intermediary for clean energy.

Career Connections & Employer Resources

We’re also improving career navigation tools and resources. Building on previous Solar Ready Vets milestones, we look forward to offering additional solar mentorship opportunities and hiring events for military-connected individuals.  A new, self-paced solar career navigation course coming early next year will showcase the wide range of opportunities available in the rapidly growing solar industry, and we’re also establishing a direct referral process to connect qualified veteran candidates to open jobs with select solar employers. 

Over the past few years, our team has made great strides to engage employers with resources to attract, hire, develop, and retain military talent, and help veterans and other military-connected individuals find their place in the solar industry. We look forward to continuing to build out these resources and amplifying “service to solar” success stories as the program’s reach and impact continues to grow.

Solar employers, training providers and military-connected individuals are invited to join the Solar Ready Vets Network to stay current on opportunities, events and resources.

What’s Next?

  • Service members, veterans and military spouses: join us for a webinar on Oct 26 with Hiring Our Heroes to explore solar career pathways and hear from three top employers.
  • The next fellowship resume release is in February 2024. Please reach out if your company is interested in hosting a fellow! 
  • Military connected solar professionals: please consider joining our SRV Advisory Committee! This group meets twice annually to inform and evaluate program activities. Reach out to get involved.
  • Our SkillBridge and Apprenticeship working groups are convening soon. Please reach out to express interest if your company would like to contribute to either of these efforts.