Bright Spot for Vets

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Popular program getting vets ready for jobs in solar industry

Veteran holding twin daughtersNearly a year after President Barack Obama visited Utah and challenged the Department of Energy (DOE) to increase the scope of its Solar Ready Vets program administered in the state by SLCC, a DOE official is lauding the program as a model for others across the nation.

“This partnership with community colleges for us is designed to meet the needs of a broad range of American citizens and help them get access to jobs in the dynamic clean energy sector,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall at SLCC’s Solar Ready Vets commencement ceremony in late March at Hill Air Force Base. Eighteen veterans graduated in the ceremony. The program trains veterans for careers in the high-tech solar industry.

SLCC in association with the DOE tweaked the Solar Ready Vets curriculum for Hill Air Force Base to help meet the solar energy industry’s job-training needs in Utah and beyond. “We’re partnering with community colleges at each base,” Sherwood-Randall said. “Community colleges are an essential part in this endeavor.” She said more people in the U.S. are now working in the solar industry than in coal mining, and a third of all new electric-generating capacity in this country comes from solar technology.

The day before the ceremony, veterans and service members attended a solar industry jobs fair at SLCC’s Miller Campus. They had just finished an intensive training program in areas such as photovoltaic installation and design, electrical theory, troubleshooting andveterans graduating solar technology sales. At the fair, there was a shared attraction to hiring vets. Vivint Solar recruiter Robert Freebairn said his Lehi-based company is rapidly expanding and hiring hundreds of veterans who, if they’re coming out of the Solar Ready Vets program, are able to “hit the ground running.”

“It’s going to be a great technology that will be booming,” said Jess Shelley who is leaving the Army National Guard after six years, and completed Solar Ready Vets. “I decided to jump on the train while it’s still in the station,” Shelley said. Clarence Gleton, a father of new twin girls and senior airman leaving the Air Force after six years, agrees. “I thought it would be a great time to get into the industry.”

Judy Fisher, SLCC program manager for solar technologies and the Energy Institute, said Obama’s visit last year to Utah brought a lot of attention to the solar program at SLCC. She has had to cap attendance in some classes and move others into larger classrooms. Fisher wants to add a course that focuses on designing solar energy systems for residential clients. She praised the Solar Ready Vets graduates: “This was a great group of students.”