Along with the rest of the U.S. population, the veterans’ unemployment rate is on the decline. Nevertheless, finding a decent-paying job is difficult for many vets upon their return home. Almost half a million U.S. veterans are without work, and almost 60 percent of them are over the age of 45. Meanwhile, despite a bevy of employment programs and workplace protections written into U.S. federal law, Americans with a disability still struggle with employment, which dipped slightly but still sits at a stubborn 10.7 percent. San Diego-based Envision Solar, however, says it is proactive in hiring talent from both groups of workers.
The manufacturer of clean energy products, including solar-powered electric vehicle chargers and portable “solar tree” arrays, works with veterans advocacy groups including the Honor Foundation. According to one Honor Foundation video, the mission-driven experiences veterans have gained while deployed abroad make them prime candidates to transition into companies such as Envision. When asked about veterans at Envision and their age, a company spokesperson said one of its 21 full time staff members is a veteran over 45.
Andrew Mosier, a former Marine Sargent Major who served in the Middle East and is now Envision Solar’s director of sales, made the case for hiring veterans. “You’re going to get a guy to work for you who doesn’t know how to fail,” he said. “He’s going to find a way to succeed at any challenge you throw at him, and he’s going to find himself successful in your business.”
Envision Solar’s quest to hire veterans is part of a nationwide effort to assist veterans in developing a career within the solar power sector. The U.S. Department of Energy works with other government agencies on retraining programs for industries such as solar, including the SunShot Initiative. Such efforts join those including advocacy by the Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). In an article written last year, the SEIA claimed American solar companies are hiring veterans at a rate twice that of other business. All of these programs are key drivers to meet the current presidential administration’s goal of having 50,000 new installers – including veterans – trained and hired by 2020.
The hiring of workers with a disability in this sector, however, has proven to be more challenging. Part of the problem is that while some companies, including Envision Solar, manufacture their products in the U.S., the industry has become dominated by Chinese manufacturers. The U.S. Department of Labor distributed primers on potential green jobs opportunities within the solar power sector, but a Cornell University study argues far more could be done to make this a more inclusive industry.
Envision Solar is hardly alone when it comes to the progress made on hiring veterans. SolarCity, which was recently acquired by Tesla Motors, has its own veterans hiring initiative. And New York state, under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, announced a program earlier this year that aims to train former military personnel so they have the tools needed to enter this industry.
Image credit: Envision Solar