Service to Solar: Introducing Veterans to the Solar Industry

by Tracy Fosterling on Oct 20, 2020

General Interest

solar ready vets

veterans in solar

The Energy Toolbase team is proud to be one of the first companies participating in theSolar Ready Vets Fellowship program led by The Solar Foundation, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The program’s goal is to place highly qualified transitioning service members with solar employers for on-the-job experience in various professional and management positions. The Solar Ready Vets Fellowship is offered in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heros Corporate Fellowship Program and offers service members 12 weeks of hands-on solar job experience during their transition from active duty to the civilian workforce. While the last year has been challenging, particularly for the solar industry, this program hopes to help connect service members to existing and new opportunities.

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Energy Toolbase employs several military veterans within various departments including the executive team, administration, and logistics. “The value that veterans can bring to not just the solar industry, but the civilian workforce, in general, is unmatched,” said Energy Toolbase President and Canadian Military veteran Reid Wuntke. “We jumped at the chance to help support a smooth transition and give an opportunity for those who have served.” Sylvia Morris joined Energy Toolbase for her 3-month fellowship as a Logistics Manager with Technology and Product Operations team. Sylvia came to our team with nearly three decades of experience in the United States Air Force in logistics and operations and is going to be essential to our TPO team where she will be involved in provisioning, logistics, project delivery, and fulfillment. “Coming to a solar industry is new to me,” says Sylvia. “It’s a whole new chapter in my life and I love every moment of it. The culture, people, environment, morale is beyond exceptional.” Sylvia is just one of many who have already participated or are currently involved in the program which has proven to already be a success. A case study from this summer’s inaugural cohort of Solar Ready Vets Fellows is availablehere

We sat down (virtually) withMegan Howes, Program Specialist at The Solar Foundation who coordinates the Solar Ready Vets Network, to learn more about how they’re helping veterans transition into the solar industry.

Q: Tell us more about the Solar Ready Vets Program and how it got started?

A: The Solar Ready Vets Fellowship is led by The Solar Foundation, with funding from the US Department of Energy. The Solar Ready Vets Fellowship extends the highly successful Corporate Fellowship Program led by Hiring Our Heroes (US Chamber of Commerce Foundation) to the solar industry. Through the SRV Fellowship, highly qualified mid-senior level transitioning service members are placed with solar employers for 12 weeks of on-the-job experience in professional and management roles. Fellowships are intended to lead to employment, supporting a smooth transition from military service to the civilian solar workforce.

The SRV Fellowship is part of a broader capacity-building initiative, called the Solar Ready Vets Network. This includes efforts to improve and expand solar training opportunities and career pathways for military service members and veterans in diverse technical and leadership roles across the American solar workforce. For example, through this work, our team has secured approvals from the Department of Veterans Affairs for all NABCEP PV certifications to be eligible for GI Bill benefits. We are also working to establish regional industry-education partnerships to support solar training and hiring outcomes for veterans, and building out resources for solar employers to invest in military talent as part of a broader workforce development strategy.

Q: What was the driving force behind this program and working to get vets into the solar industry?

A: With strong leadership, teamwork, organizational and technical skills, and a mission-driven work ethic, military service members and veterans are well-suited to excel in a range of solar careers, and are a highly valuable source of talent at all levels of the solar workforce. This program strives to align military skills with solar workforce needs and supports the industry’s ability to recruit top military talent and invest in a robust, dynamic, and resilient workforce, as demand for solar talent continues to grow.  

Q: What sorts of qualifications do program participants have to have to be considered?

A: All of the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship candidates have earned a college degree (87% have a bachelor’s or higher) in addition to leadership experience (Solar Ready Vets Fellows are recruited from this group among other industries). Fellows are still on active duty, within 6 months of separation or retirement from military service. Employers receive resumes and interview fellowship candidates, then placements are made based on the employer's needs, the candidate’s skills, and the interests of both parties.

Solar Ready Vets fellows have extensive and highly valuable professional qualifications but don’t necessarily have solar experience prior to their placements, so we offer a “Solar 101” curriculum, covering technical, policy, and market dimensions of the industry. This gives SRV Fellows a strong orientation to the industry as they learn the ropes with their solar employer so that at the end of the 12-week fellowship, they are well prepared to excel in a full-time position either with their host company or another solar employer.

Employers host fellows in a professional / management position where they have an open requisition they seek to fill. Potential fellowship roles span project management, business development, communications, operations, and logistics, and much more. As the Fellowship is offered through theDepartment of Defense Skillbridge program, there is no cost to the employer.

The Solar Ready Vets Program has already seen in incredible interest from the solar industry. While the program launched amid a global pandemic that disrupted regular operations across the solar industry, the program has already placed 10 fellows with solar employers nationwide in just a few short months. The coronavirus’ impacts were certainly felt on summer program placements, but as it recovers, they are seeing heightened interest from more companies and are getting ready to place additional fellows throughout 2021. This program is open to any company interested in appropriate open positions. To learn more about the Solar Ready Vets Fellowship program and the Solar Ready Vets Network, you can visitAmericanSolarWorkforce.org or reach out to Megan directly at mhowes@solarfound.org.

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