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Marines Seek Second Career in Solar


Energy efficiency is big business. Energy audits, insulation upgrades, HVAC systems instillations, LED lighting and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems all create new “green” jobs, sustain existing jobs, fuel innovation and improve U.S. economic competitiveness. Such measures will not only reduce energy bills and alleviate strains on power grids, they benefit this and future generations by helping conserve ecosystems and natural resources and improving human health, safety and the overall quality of life.

Improving energy efficiency and making use of clean, renewable energy have been a mainstay of President Obama's two terms in office – this second term in particular. Taking executive action, the President in December 2013 promised that the federal government would lead by example, setting ambitious clean energy and energy efficiency goals for all branches of the U.S. government. That includes the U.S. military, whose leaders recognize the opportunities, as well as profound threats, climate change poses both at home and globally.

Providing affordable, accessible education and training is key to realizing the U.S. military and federal government's clean energy and energy efficiency goals.

On February 13, the Department of Energy announced the first class of Marines graduated from the pilot phase of its SunShot Initiative solar energy industry training program. As the Energy Department explains, the groundbreaking program prepares “service members for careers in the solar industry as solar photovoltaic system installers, sales representatives, system inspectors, and other solar-related opportunities.”

Solar job training for transitioning U.S. military service members

The Marines who graduated from the pilot phase of the Energy Department's solar industry jobs training program at Camp Pendleton are the first of an expected 200 U.S. military service members looking to make a successful transition to civilian life by landing jobs and building careers in the fast-growing U.S. solar energy sector. The program is the latest initiative enabled through the Department of Defense's (DoD) Skill Bridge Initiative.

The DoD's Skillbridge program allows exiting military personnel to participate in civilian job training, skills acquisition, apprenticeships and internships up to six months prior to leaving service. Rounding out the pilot phase of the solar industry jobs training program, SunShot training courses at Fort Carson and Naval Station Norfolk are scheduled to begin this spring.

SunShot Initiative Director Minh highlighted how the program benefits transitioning U.S. military service members and enables them to continue working for the broad public good.

“As more homes and businesses across America choose solar power for their electricity needs, the solar industry is growing rapidly, and demand for highly skilled solar workers is on the rise,” Minh was quoted in a news release. “This new solar energy job training program will help our motivated, highly skilled service men and women gain the training they need to transition into leaders of our nation’s growing clean energy economy.”

U.S. solar and military vets: Hiring now

The Energy Department also highlighted already large, and growing, number of U.S. military veterans working in the U.S. solar energy industry. “The solar industry has long been a leader in hiring military veterans, and today, the industry employs nearly 17,000 veterans, approximately 10 percent of nearly 174,000 solar jobs nationwide,” according to the news release.

Fundamental to its success, solar industry leaders have joined in the initiative. “Five of the largest U.S. solar companies by number of employees – SolarCity, Vivint Solar, Sunrun, SunEdison and SunPower – have committed to interview military trainees graduating from the solar job training pilot program, a step that will help place qualified trainees in well-paying jobs,” DoE notes.

The pilot U.S. military solar jobs training program is an outgrowth of the Energy Department's SunShot Solar Instructor Training Network, DoE adds. Through this program, DoE runs a national network of nine centers across the U.S. that support certified solar industry jobs training at over 400 community colleges in 49 states. Nearly 1,100 students have obtained qualifications as certified solar instructors as a result. Over 30,000 have received practical, “hands-on” training that prepare them to land jobs and build careers in the U.S. solar energy sector.

*Image credits: U.S. Departments of Defense, Department of Energy

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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