The Solar Ready Vets fellowship program and others like it have provided hundreds of United States veterans with the training and experience necessary to find meaningful post-military work in the solar industry.
These programs offer ways for active duty personnel and veterans to get training and find good jobs in the solar industry, while giving solar companies a recruiting pipeline of high-quality applicants with skills that translate easily to the industry.
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The Solar Ready Vets program was initially created in 2014 with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The Solar Foundation took over in 2019 and announced two initiatives to get more veterans involved in the solar industry.
The first is the Solar Ready Vets fellowship program, which offers a series of 12 week-long, work-based learning programs that place veterans and active duty personnel with solar employers for hands-on learning.
The second is the SOAR initiative (Solar Opportunities and Readiness). Through SOAR, the Solar Foundation makes connections between employers, educators, and policymakers to streamline the ways veterans can get jobs in solar.
The Solar Ready Vets fellowship program is one important reason that about 20,000 of the 250,000 jobs in the solar industry are held by veterans.
Why the Solar Ready Vets fellowship is important
Bringing veterans into the solar workforce makes sense because military service already requires many of the skills necessary to be a great solar worker. Service members are generally known to be dependable and good in stressful situations. These traits are essential in a fast-paced, always-changing industry like solar.
In addition, members of the military often have training in technology and leadership skills. Because of this, veterans generally end up in sales, logistics, and management roles within solar companies.
The fellowships involve both practical and theoretical learning. A little classroom time introduces key concepts of the industry. On-the-job training lets veterans learn key concepts and get their hands on the equipment the industry uses every day.
Here’s a video from the early days of the program showing how it works:
Solar jobs are fitting for veterans
The solar industry offers many roles that are ideal for members of the military. Veterans tend to have advanced skills and experience, so the Solar Ready Vets fellowship program focuses mainly on management and professional positions, like technical sales, project development, system design, and supply chain logistics.
Depending on Military Occupational Specialty, many of the skills soldiers learned in the service can be applied directly to the solar industry. In addition, many soldiers now have hands-on experience with setting up solar installations at Forward Operating Bases.
Here’s a short video from Florida Power & Light that features a few veteran employees doing their thing:
How veterans can find fellowships in solar
Active duty personnel preparing for the transition to civilian life are eligible for participation in the Solar Ready Vets fellowship. The program helps with job and interview skills training and can lead to immediate placement after a soldier leaves the military.
To get involved, active duty enlisted service members and officers should begin by signing up for the Department of Defense’s Skillbridge program, which also provides weekly job market skills training to fellows during their time in the Solar Ready Vets program.
How solar companies can get involved
Any solar company that wants to extend job opportunities to vets through the Solar Ready Vets fellowship can sign up to be a “host company” at the American Solar Workforce Fellowships page.
Fellows – the servicemembers in the program – are paid by the military and are available for job training at no cost to the host company.
Host companies design the training curriculum and gain access to a natural recruiting pipeline to try out potential new employees before deciding whether to hire them. The guidelines of the program require companies to have intent to hire veterans for good-paying jobs and ensure fellows get access to hands-on learning with supervisors who can share their expertise.
More information can be found at the Solar Workforce Development page on the Solar Training Network website.
Solar fellowship locations and schedule
The Solar Ready Vets fellowship is currently focused on soldiers at these bases:
- Camp Pendleton (San Diego, CA)
- Fort Hood (Killeen, TX)
- MacDill Air Force Base (Tampa, FL)
But these locations are not the only places where companies can host fellows. The Corporate Fellowship Programs provided by Hiring our Heroes have remote offices in many places around the country, and there is no geographic limit to this work program.
As long as your company can meet the program requirements, you can host a fellow! Fellowship cohorts are scheduled to begin three times per year, in January, May, and August.
Other solar training programs for veterans
The Solar Foundation isn’t the only group out there hosting a veterans solar program. Our friends at Solar Energy International (SEI) offer the Active Duty Military & Veterans Career Transition Program, which provides in-person hands-on training.
SEI is authorized to accept Veterans Education Benefits for people on the GI Bill and other education and training programs. Veterans who are interested should check out the Solar Professionals Certificate Program.
Another group called Swords to Plowshares offers periodic 6-hour solar industry training sessions. The group partners with GRID Alternatives to offer training in the Bay Area of California.
Finally, Green Veterans offers programs at locations in Rhode Island and Wisconsin, in addition to Florida and Puerto Rico.