The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) Fiscal Year 2022 Advancing Equity Through Workforce Partnerships has created a $13.5 million funding program for the development of collaborative workforce programs. The program facilitates the rapid deployment of solar energy technologies while supporting an inclusive workforce. This work, partly funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will enable more members of disadvantaged communities and energy justice populations to pursue careers in the solar energy industry. The Department of Energy announced the selection of 12 projects on June 13, 2023. The projects in this funding program are demand-driven, worker-centric, leverage existing infrastructure and resources, are sustainable and replicable, and prioritize energy justice issues.
Location: Boulder, CO
DOE Award Amount: $1,500,000
Awardee Cost Share: $150,000
Principal Investigator: Amanda Bybee, CEO of Amicus O&M
Project title: Solar Operations and Maintenance (O&M) High Road Training Partnership
Objective: The objective of the program is to increase equity in the solar O&M sector through expanded training and certification tracks for solar O&M professionals in partnership with strategic workforce development organizations, employers, and workers.
Summary: This project will expand training and certification tracks for solar operations and maintenance (O&M) professionals in partnership with Solar Energy International (SEI), North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), Independent Electrical Contractors Rocky Mountain (IECRM), Entity Academy, and Black Owners of Solar Services (BOSS). Working with a breadth of industry stakeholders, the project will standardize O&M technician competency frameworks; establish training program standards; build an expanded O&M training program; and create a pipeline of workers from disadvantaged communities. The end result will be to place newly trained workers in jobs and increase equity, safety, and professional quality in the solar O&M workforce.
Project Description: All installed solar will ultimately need maintenance in its 25+ year lifetime. The industry is currently experiencing a shortage of qualified technicians, and there is no publicly available, comprehensive training and certification program for O&M professionals to help remedy this situation. Additionally, today’s O&M technicians largely draw from solar installers and adjacent trades, a candidate pool that lacks diverse representation. This leads to unequal access to these highly skilled, well-paid, long-term, meaningful careers. With solar growth expected to quadruple in the next decade, a comprehensive training program is needed to open doors to more technicians, especially those from disadvantaged communities (DACs). This effort requires the creation of new professional onramps, opportunities to enroll in Registered Apprenticeship Programs and join unions, partnering with trusted community and workforce allies, and diligent outreach to encourage entry into this promising and essential field of work.
The Solar O&M High Road Training Partnership program will provide new training and credentialing mechanisms for both incumbent and entry-level workers, to support worker mobility and move toward a broad-based training that encompasses many green technologies. We will assemble an Advisory Committee of employers and employees from Amicus O&M Cooperative and other large O&M providers, training and credentialing organizations, labor unions, and workforce development organizations to guide and inform our work. The Advisory Committee will standardize O&M technician competency frameworks for large utility-scale systems, DG-scale systems, and residential systems; establish training program standards; leverage existing training programs to create a new Engage O&M program; and create a pipeline of workers from DACs. We will also train employers on methods to support their new employees and share tactics for not only hiring – but also retaining – these workers over time.
Ultimately, our goal will be to enroll 1,000 solar O&M technicians in the training programs over the next three years. Of that number, we aim for 40% or greater to be BIPOC, women, veterans, and/or members of other DACs. We will deliver a new credential through NABCEP, an expanded training program through Engage O&M with SEI, and a new Registered Apprenticeship Program with IECRM. We will establish early career services for apprentices and offer scholarships to trainees from DACs through SEI, IECRM, BOSS, and Entity Academy as well as other strategic workforce development partnerships we build along the way.
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Background: According to the 2022 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, the solar industry employs over 330,000 people and added 17,200 new jobs in 2021. The report also found that while the solar industry is more diverse than some other energy industries, the overall energy workforce lags in Hispanic (17%), Black (8%), and Indigenous worker (1%) representation. With solar power potentially contributing up to one third of the U.S. electricity supply, there is a need for more equity and inclusivity in the industry. DOE is working to ensure that the solar workforce of the future is equitable, inclusive, and benefits all Americans, particularly disadvantaged communities.
About the Solar Energy Technologies Office
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office accelerates the advancement and deployment of solar technology in support of an equitable transition to a decarbonized economy. Learn more at energy.gov/eere/solar.