November is an important month for solar and other clean energy employers that are focused on recruiting and retaining a skilled and diverse workforce. This month, we observed Veterans Day—an opportunity to highlight the importance of veteran talent across clean energy industries. We’re also celebrating National Apprenticeship Week by highlighting ways that Registered Apprenticeships strengthen and diversify pathways to clean energy careers. IREC staff are engaged and ready to help employers with both these opportunities. Read on to learn more!

Veterans in Solar

The Solar Ready Vets Network is an IREC-led program that connects transitioning military service members and veterans with career opportunities in the solar and storage industry. The Solar Ready Vets Network has just secured another round of funding to continue this work for the next two years, building on existing programs and creating new training opportunities, resources, and career connections for transitioning service members, veterans, and military connected individuals. 

Currently, veterans make up 8% of the U.S. solar workforce, compared to 5% within U.S. workforce as a whole. Veterans thrive in the rapidly growing solar industry, bringing their ability to work in a fast-paced environment, organizational skills, and a team-oriented mindset to a vast array of occupations. The Solar Ready Vets Network connects service members to solar career pathways while offering broader resources to help navigate training and employment options. The program also offers resources and partnerships for employers to recruit and retain veteran talent. 

Apprenticeships in Clean Energy 

Registered Apprenticeships are a great way to recruit veteran talent in any industry. The Solar Ready Vets Network will be creating several National Guideline Standards of Apprenticeship for solar industry job roles, based on existing occupations that have been approved as “apprenticeable” by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). These guideline standards will be available for any employer to use in designing and registering an Apprenticeship program. 

The first round of standards will apply to the Construction Craft Laborer occupation, which can be used by clean energy employers to develop their installation and construction workforce. Over the next two years, with our partners at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) leading the effort, our team will continue to develop standards for other apprenticeable occupations, such as electrician, maintenance technician, system designer, and more. (If your company is interested in helping us define these standards, please reach out!)  

How Apprenticeships Can Work For Your Company

Apprenticeships are a proven talent development strategy. They not only bolster recruitment for well paying jobs, but support racial and gender equity and increase opportunities for underrepresented groups. Apprenticeships are based on the “earn while you learn” model which aids in the recruitment and retention of quality candidates. They incorporate on-the-job training that fits a wide array of skills necessary for people to start their careers. Apprenticeships also offer specific benefits for veterans, who can apply GI Bill benefits to tuition, supplies, and other costs. 

IREC was recognized as a DOL Apprenticeship Ambassador earlier this year, and has also been selected to serve as an DOL Industry Intermediary for Registered Apprenticeships. To that end, we lead the Apprenticeships in Clean Energy (ACE) Network, a national coalition of industry, education, and workforce leaders working together to advance Registered Apprenticeship opportunities. The ACE Network offers no-cost technical assistance to employers and other potential sponsors to design and implement Registered Apprenticeship programs. 

The renewable energy company Wanzek Construction Inc. recently created an Apprenticeship program for large-scale utility and commercial solar construction projects and smaller residential projects. Wanzek found that they could tailor and adapt the curriculum and learning outcomes to meet their business needs, while preparing Apprentices for their specific work processes and pathways. At Wanzek, apprentices get trained in what they need to learn for their specific job and long-term career development, while companies gain employees who have the skills necessary to succeed. Hunter Meadows, an apprentice at Wanzek, stated that “it’s a program that can really help out in the long run for the industry, with [a] more hands-on approach to teaching those interested in this career that goes further than a basic new hire program.” 

Apprentice Hunter Meadows (left), with his journey-level mentor, Daniel Lopez. Photo courtesy Wanzek Construction Inc.

How to Follow Up 

If you are an employer interested in hiring military-connected talent, or are a service member, veteran, or military spouse interested in employment, we encourage you to join the Solar Ready Vets Network. The network provides valuable information, fellowship opportunities, resources, and career connections for service-aligned job-seekers and employers. If you have any questions or are interested in learning more, please reach out to our team

If you’re interested in starting a Registered Apprenticeship, the ACE Network provides no-cost, high-quality technical assistance for employers and other potential sponsors. Fill out our contact form here to learn more.