Solar Training at the Del Valle Opportunity Center
The solar pioneers of Del Valle Opportunity Center (DVOC) set an important precedent in the winter of 2021 by showing students how to take their power back through old school vocational training programs. While the Department of Labor baulked on the approval of a national solar apprenticeship program, Texans accelerated efforts to meet the growing demand for solar jobs.
Solar Jobs in High Demand A report released last year by the Biden administration claims that the US can generate 40% of its electricity from solar energy by 2035. According to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm,
“solar, our cheapest and fastest-growing source of clean energy, could produce enough electricity to power all of the homes in the U.S. by 2035 and employ as many as 1.5 million people in the process.”
Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy
A Solution for Workforce Diversity, Inclusion and Vocational Training Through its vocational training program, Del Valle ISD and the DVOC offers students a roadmap to prepare for emerging career opportunities before graduating high school. Additionally, the program highlights the importance of creating more diversity within the solar industry. McKinsey Studies have shown that workforce diversity and cultural inclusivity create stronger, more innovative, and more resilient organizations.
Texas Accelerates Solar Tech Training in Schools To harness the benefits of greater diversity, Solar Austin established its Pathways to Clean Energy Careers in 2019 as a way to expose students from diverse backgrounds to a wide array of sustainability-focused job opportunities. The program is designed to educate, prepare, and equip individuals with the resources and workforce development that they need to find upward mobility through a career in solar. Last year, Solar Austin, along with NATiVE Solar and other partners, went a step further by launching the first cohort of an innovative solar installation training program at DVOC.
Del Valle Solar Pioneers As DVOC principal Ray Macias describes, the technician training program is a wonderful opportunity to enter the workforce directly out of high school for students whose “lives have already started”. The program incorporates both online and in-person training components to help students develop necessary skills using donated equipment, time, and labor from a network of industry sponsors. The students’ on-site solar installation experience gives them the hands-on learning needed to prepare them to serve a thriving solar industry as well as help build a more diverse workforce. With 96% of its population identifying as a person of color, recruitment from the Del Valle ISD program will allow both Solar Austin and NATiVE Solar to utilize the talent of the diverse student population. The valuable experience and career preparation provided by the program will ensure that students will have many more opportunities in the solar industry after graduating high school.