Military veterans are poised to help lead record solar growth


As clean energy companies work to meet growing demands, many have had difficulty finding qualified job applicants.

In the 10th annual National Solar Jobs Census released in 2019, 83% of solar employers reported it was difficult or somewhat difficult to fill key roles, predominantly because of a lack of candidates with sufficient training or technical skills.

The good news is that the solar industry is poised for rapid, historic growth over the next few years, and there is a technically-skilled pool of men and women with diverse backgrounds ready to fill the thousands of jobs this industry will create – military veterans.

Veterans are team players who know how to lead a team, and they don’t shy away from hard work. Many of the technical skills that veterans acquire during their military service align with the skills that solar companies are seeking – not only for installers, but also for leadership positions in project management, engineering, IT, and other areas where training and experience are crucial. For these reasons and many more, our military veterans are ideal candidates for solar talent acquisition departments and organizations, like Hiring Our Heroes, are here to make those connections.

Hiring Our Heroes, a workforce development initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, is committed to strengthening and diversifying the nation’s workforce by connecting employers with top talent. We help veterans identify careers that maximize their skill sets and have found the solar industry to be a successful match. For job candidates, solar companies offer an attractive career path with competitive pay and a wide range of leadership opportunities.

Is the solar industry taking advantage of the skills our veterans have to offer? There are more than 19,000 veterans working in the solar industry, representing 7.6% of the overall workforce, according to The Solar Foundation’s latest National Solar Jobs Census. While this runs slightly ahead of the overall economy, in which veterans represent 5.9% of the workforce, there is incredible room for growth.

With less than 1% of all Americans currently serving in the military, HR professionals and hiring managers often lack sufficient knowledge about military service or the skills acquired during that time. They traditionally don’t understand how to interpret military experience when looking at veterans’ resumes, and when they do hire a veteran, most are overwhelmingly pleased with their performance.

A survey of 400 HR professionals conducted by Hiring Our Heroes found that HR professionals  associate veterans with attributes like discipline, loyalty, work ethic, timeliness, and their ability to work on a team – the same attributes that solar company hiring managers tell us they are seeking in job candidates. The study went on to say these attributes aren’t as easily found in civilian applicants.

There are several roadblocks that continue to be a challenge. Our research found that more than 80% of HR professionals say that their companies lack specialized training to help civilian employees and staff relate to veterans. Similarly, nearly 70% report that their employers do not provide any special assistance to veterans during the onboarding process.

We are working to change these statistics through the Solar Ready Vets Fellowship program, a pathway to connect solar companies with military veterans. This program, led by The Solar Foundation and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the broader Solar Ready Vets Network, places active-duty service members in a 12-week, work-based learning program focused on management and professional positions, such as project management, engineering and system design, supply chain and logistics, project development, operations and asset management, business development, IT, and a variety of corporate functions. Through a collaborative effort between Hiring Our Heroes, The Solar Foundation, and the Solar Energy Industries Association, this program is offered to solar companies at no cost.

Fellowship candidates are carefully matched with participating companies based on their specific knowledge and skills, and the preferences of both parties. Through this process, employers gain access to the best and brightest transitioning military talent while gaining a deeper understanding of the veteran labor market.

Hiring Our Heroes is ready for companies to participate in the next cohort, with a March 5 deadline approaching. Companies are encouraged to apply to be a host company in the Solar Ready Vets Fellowship program to tap into this valuable talent pool.

The solar industry is growing quickly and in order to be successful, you need employees with the skills to match that growth. Veterans are ready to contribute to your company’s success in 2021 and beyond.

Eric Eversole is the president of Hiring Our Heroes, and a vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.

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