How to get a job building utility-scale solar

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To get a job in utility-scale solar construction, you can apply on a company website, but first you need to know the names of the companies that are in the business. Two of them agreed to interviews for this story — McCarthy Building Companies and Black & Veatch. Other solar construction firms are shown in a list of “top solar contractors.”

McCarthy “has developed a highly successful training program specifically for individuals who have never worked in utility-scale solar installation,” said Scott Canada, executive vice president of the firm’s renewable energy & storage group. Black & Veatch also provides on-the-job training, believing that “since this is a rapidly growing industry, previous experience is not required,” said Sherry Nero, renewables global business manager with Black & Veatch’s power business.

McCarthy is currently hiring for at least three projects, each roughly 200 MW in size, to be completed by December 2020: two in California (Kern County and Lemoore), and one in Michigan (Hazleton and Shiawassee counties), said Canada. Each project will need 300-plus craft workers and general laborers. McCarthy has a career page on its website, which permits a search for “solar jobs.”

Black & Veatch will begin hiring construction craft in late April for three projects near Jacksonville, Florida, and in June for a project in North Carolina. “At peak we will have 650 craft across all four sites,” said Nero. Black & Veatch typically hires through its recruiting webpage, and posts solar construction job openings for Overland Contracting, a Black & Veatch company, on Facebook.

Both firms provide long-term opportunities for employees who are willing to stay with the company from one job site to the next. Black & Veatch “prefers to recruit, train and grow employees who are looking for long-term employment,” said Nero. McCarthy has an in-house recruiting department that “offers opportunities to workers on projects that are completing, to consider joining a new project team,” said Canada.

McCarthy also has a focus on local hiring for each large solar project, through job fairs and local advertising.

McCarthy has a “highly successful” training program for those new to utility-scale solar installation, said Canada, based on a program from the 1940s developed by the U.S. Department of War to “train inexperienced workers in moderately complex tasks.” A companion program for knowledgeable crew leaders helps them convey their knowledge, through a focus on different styles of learning, effective communication, and tools for providing constructive feedback. The firm provided the nearby photo of one element of its training programs.

Through Black & Veatch’s on-the-job training program, said Nero, “knowledge transfer from our experienced supervisors and teams allows us to assimilate talent quickly.”

Keys to success on the job, added Nero, “include a knowledge of construction, how to work safely on a diverse team, understanding the physical requirements of construction work in an outdoor environment, and the ability to bring a positive attitude and a sense of teamwork to the site each day.”

Scott Canada with McCarthy offers these tips for job-seekers: “Some construction experience is helpful; experience working outside can be beneficial; as well as an aptitude and propensity for physical labor from the most ideal candidates.”