What about Solar Jobs?
Today, solar PV has proven to be a catalyst for change in clean energy solutions as we build a more sustainable and resilient community. Nonetheless, training for solar jobs has fallen short. While the Department of Energy touted a lofty goal of 30% solar PV by 2030 (currently at ~4% PV), the Department of Labor failed to approve a solar apprenticeship program. The net effect is that schools across the nation have zero funding capabilities to train for solar jobs, no money to buy the needed supplies, and no standardized curriculum or educational methods. In contrast, the Department of Labor did approve a wind apprenticeship program.
As a result of the lack of coordinated strategy to achieve America’s energy goals, schools, CTE directors, and administrators were left perplexed and challenged to provide their own funding and training. Furthermore, schools have no or very limited mechanisms for reimbursement for graduates entering the workforce with certifications and licenses through the Texas Education Agency. Those interested in offering a solar focused class are therefore seeking help from industry experts to mix and match solar training curriculum. This dysfunctional approach to the tremendous workforce demand and clean energy career opportunities ultimately leaves our electrical infrastructure and energy security at risk of failure amidst increasing cyber and physical threats due to politics and climate change.
Innovative ISDs Step up and Capitalize on the Opportunity, but what about Scale?
Bryan ISD, near College Station, currently has a 100 acre CTE complex that services three surrounding ISDs (Caldwell ISD, Snook ISD, and College Station ISD) as well as the students at Bryan ISD. Of the students enrolled in the two year CTE program, 80% come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Current CTE programs, like the one available at Bryan ISD, are making a comeback and returning to the forefront of industry trends. Not only are they teaching students construction (electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and welding) and automotive trades, they are also now incorporating engineering, programming, and robotics education as well. Solar is a natural fit to join the curriculum as we move into the future of alternative energy production.