Equitable Clean Energy Jobs Program
According to The Solar Foundation’s U.S Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019, today’s solar industry workforce “does not yet reflect America’s diverse population.” At the same time, solar companies consistently report that it is “very difficult” to find and hire qualified workers. This same dynamic exists in the energy and construction industries in general, creating structural challenges to organizational success.
Studies have consistently shown that workforce diversity and cultural inclusivity create stronger and more resilient organizations. When team members come from differing educational, ethnic, religious, political, and socioeconomic backgrounds, the company as a whole experiences higher levels of creativity, coherence, and problem-solving capabilities. Gender and racial diversity are clearly correlated with profitability, such that more diverse companies consistently outperform less diverse companies. Moreover, energy companies are better positioned to tap into new consumer markets when their office better represents the communities where they operate.
While internships can serve as part of the solution to this issue, unstructured internships can often fall flat, with interns feeling underutilized and companies feeling unprepared to engage the students. This leads to wasted time and effort. Lack of diversity in clean energy companies can also result in negative internship and early career experiences for students of color and women that strengthen the perception of environmental fields as unwelcoming or undesirable.
Greater diversity benefits both the employer and employee. Years of studies have proven that workforce diversity and cultural inclusivity create stronger, more innovative, and more resilient organizations. Gender and racial diversity are clearly correlated with profitability, improving a company’s market performance and overall bottom-line.
While Austin has grown a thriving local clean energy industry, more could be done to improve diversity in the workforce. People of color (with the exception of Hispanics) and women are underrepresented in the solar workforce. Studies show the lack of diversity stems in part from the industry’s reliance on word-of-mouth recruitment techniques and general unfamiliarity about the industry’s viable career pathways within educational and training programs.
NATiVE Solar recognizes how the solar workforce continues to fall short in adequately reflecting America’s diverse population and that is why we are thankful for and participating in Solar Austin’s Equitable Clean Energy Jobs Program. We look forward to diversifying our staff by utilizing this program and urge other local energy companies to do the same.
More about the program can be found here: solaraustin.org/equitablecleanenergyjobs