Double and then some.
That’s how much the U.S. solar market is expected to grow this year over last, a staggering figure that should have workforce development leaders sitting up and taking notice.
In its latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2015 Year in Review, published in conjunction with the Solar Energy Industries Association, lGTM Research forecasted 16 gigawatts of solar will be installed in the United States in 2016, more than doubling the record-breaking 7.3 GW installed in 2015. Utility-scale installations will represent 74 percent of the installations for the year, but it’s important to note that residential and commercial markets have also grown so much that they will be worth more gigawatts this year than all of solar was last year.
What does that mean for our workforce?
“Hundreds of thousands of well-paying solar jobs will be added in the next few years benefiting both America’s economy and the environment,” association president Rhone Resch said.
So what does that mean for workforce innovation and opportunity programs?
It means we need to get moving. There is not just a lack of skilled solar workers in the United States, but all around the world, so we cannot get out of this problem by importing labor, as we have in other industries. The number of solar firms having a “very difficult” time hiring qualified workers is rising rapidly.
In part, that’s because the qualifications for certification and licensure are so vastly different from state to state and even city to city. Many states haven’t even established specific solar license classifications — and a lot of people will avoid training that isn’t aligned with state licensing standards, for fear they’ll just have to do it all again when the standards are finally written.
Taking advantage explosive growth in the solar industry, then, is a bit of a two-front challenge, requiring state workforce development and licensing agencies to work together with legislators to develop best practice-based training programs that are likely to not only meet but exceed eventual licensing standards.
States that do this, though, have virtually unlimited potential to get ahead of the pack in the green jobs revolution.
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