A Veteran’s Guide to Getting a Job in the Solar Industry

A Veteran’s Guide to Getting a Job in the Solar Industry

About 200,000 veterans exit military service every year, beginning the transition into civilian life and employment. At the same time, the solar industry is growing at an incredible rate, creating a vast potential for veteran solar jobs. According to the 2021 National Solar Jobs Census, over 250,000 people work in the solar industry, with tens of thousands of jobs added each year.

Since veterans typically possess skills valuable to the solar industry, the solar sector can be a natural fit for those looking to transition into civilian work. The U.S. solar industry employs over 20,000 veterans, which equals about 8% of all solar workers in the nation — higher than the 5.6% of veterans in the overall labor force.

A study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that veterans not only struggle to find jobs, but to find fulfilling work that utilizes their military experience effectively. This is also known as underemployment, wherein several employers consider veterans fit for little more than security roles.

However, the solar industry is different. Most transitioning service members hold skills that overlap with those needed to work for a solar energy company, including:

  • Leadership: Solar companies employ a majority of veterans in team or project management roles. Military leadership skills and experience are of great value in an industry that utilizes numerous teams such as sales, installation and design.
  • Teamwork: The military is an organization that depends on teamwork, which instills each veteran with exceptional team-building abilities. This skill is of great value in the solar workforce since most companies operate as goal-oriented teams — similar to the military.
  • Discipline: Few other organizations stress discipline as much as the military. Similarly, the accelerating solar industry strongly values disciplined individuals, owing to the often stringent timelines associated with sales and installations.
  • Sense of purpose: Perhaps the most common trait between the military and the solar industry is a sense of purpose. Passionate solar professionals are driven by improving quality of life through cost-effective, clean energy.
  • Technical skills: Although veterans may not have specific technical skills such as panel wiring and installation, they likely have some training in mechanical or electrical technology. This hands-on knowledge makes it easier to grasp the technical skills required in the solar sector.

What Types of Jobs Are Available in the Solar Industry?

With proper job training, veterans can tackle most roles in the solar industry. Below, we detailed a few roles well-suited to veterans, thanks to their existing skills.

  • Solar installer: As the solar industry grows, more and more technicians are needed to install solar panels on rooftops. Veterans with basic technical know-how can become excellent solar photovoltaic (PV) installers or electricians.
  • Solar safety inspectors: Inspectors check installed systems for safety and approve homeowners for permission to operate. These roles are ideal for military veterans with a focus on safety.
  • Solar system designers: Designers analyze a property and create a corresponding solar system plan. Most solar companies use dedicated software for system design, which is fairly simple to learn with some training.
  • Solar sales representatives: Clear, concise communication is crucial in the military. Communication skills can help veterans become solar sales reps and communicate the benefits of solar energy to potential customers.

Solar Programs, Training and Fellowships for Veterans

Several training and fellowship programs are available nationwide to help veterans prepare for a suitable solar energy job. We have outlined some important workforce development programs below.

Solar Ready Vets Fellowship

About Solar Ready Vets Fellowship: Places active-duty military service members in 12-week, work-based learning programs with solar employers. It focuses on management and professional positions, such as technical sales, system design, supply chain logistics, project development, operations and installation. The fellowship was launched as a pilot program by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in 2014 and has since split into three different programs. It is now run by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s “Hiring Our Heroes” program.

How to apply: You can apply for the Solar Ready Vets Fellowship through IREC’s official website. There is no cost associated with the program.

Solar Opportunities and Readiness (SOAR)

About Solar Opportunities and Readiness: An outcome of the Solar Ready Vets pilot program, SOAR connects veterans to solar training, credentialing, professional development and employment opportunities. It is also managed by the IREC in conjunction with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

How to apply: Since the SOAR program is also a part of the Solar Ready Vets Network, you can apply through IREC’s official website.

Cyberguardians and STEM Warriors

About Cyberguardians and STEM Warriors: Another branch of the original Solar Ready Vets pilot, this program trains and employs veterans in solar cybersecurity and information technology. It uses methods and resources that include online modules, accredited curricula and hybrid training programs to teach veterans how to design systems for distributed energy resources (DERs), grid operations, data analytics, cybersecurity and investment decision support.

How to apply: Veterans can apply for the program through IREC’s official website.

Solar Energy International Veteran’s Program

About Solar Energy International (SEI) Veteran’s Program: Offers scholarships to help active duty military members and veterans access the Solar Professionals Certificate Program (SPCP) and other training required to start a solar career. This program is offered in partnership with the SEI and the Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative.

How to apply: You can apply by filling out a form on the SEI website.

Other Employment Assistance for Veterans

Aside from the programs mentioned above, several other solar programs are in place to help U.S. veterans transition smoothly into civilian jobs. Below are some examples:

  • CareerOneStop Veteran and Military Transition Center: Helps veterans with skills assessments, job searching and finding government benefits such as unemployment. Visit the CareerOneStop website to learn more.
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): Veterans can use the VA’s website to find career assistance and job opportunities through counseling, small business support, etc.
  • Feds Hire Vets: Provides information on the federal hiring process and links to job boards with veteran employment opportunities. Visit the program website to learn more.

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