Two SunPeak employees were recently asked for their insights into current and potential educational and training opportunities to better prepare the next generation of technicians in the solar industry. John Schwarzmeier, SunPeak's System Integration Group Leader, and Alex Thomas, SunPeak's Project Development Associate, shared their educational pathways to solar, the unique learning opportunities that helped them find rewarding positions in the industry, and how colleges and technical schools can further strengthen their programs to support employers in the solar industry.
The interviews were conducted as part of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) "Future of Work" initiative, a partnership with the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD), which recognizes fast-growing industries and explores how new technology and advancements in training methodologies and STEM curriculum can enhance workforce growth and readiness.
Both NSF interviews with SunPeak employees are available on the NSF's Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work blog:
Training for solar workers will continue to be important in coming years. According to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the primary trade association for the industry, solar has experienced an average annual growth rate of 42% over the last decade alone. Strong federal tax incentives and policies such as the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), along with rapidly falling costs and increased demand for clean energy, have paved the way for incredible industry growth nationwide. The 2020 National Solar Jobs Census published by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) reported the solar industry is on a trajectory to reach 400,000 solar jobs by 2030, and employment within the industry will need to exceed 900,000 workers by 2035 to reach the 100% clean electricity goal set by President Joe Biden.
Despite COVID-related declines in the solar labor force in 2020, annual solar installations reached a record 19.2 gigawatts (GWdc) last year.