Feds Expand Initiative to Train Service Members for Jobs in Solar Industry

Hill Air Force Base will be one of 10 installations to participate in a partnership between the defense and veterans affairs departments to train transitioning service members for jobs in the solar industry, President Obama announced on Friday during a visit to the base located north of Salt Lake City.

The Solar Ready Vets initiative will train service members how to size and install solar panels, connect electricity to the grid, and interpret and comply with local building codes, according to a White House fact sheet. The intensive, six-week course will prepare participants for careers as installers, sales representatives, system inspectors and other solar-related occupations.

This pilot is enabled by DOD’s SkillBridge initiative, which allows exiting military personnel to pursue civilian job training, employment skills training, apprenticeships and internships up to six months prior to their separation date. Three installations announced pilot initiatives earlier this year — Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Fort Carson, Colo.; and Naval Station Norfolk, Va. — and are serving as a model for the program.

VA will work with the Department of Energy and state agencies to approve the use of GI Bill funding for the Solar Ready Vets initiative. Over time, this approval will enable veterans to use their GI Bill benefits to participate in the program through local community colleges. That change will expand the existing network of programs providing service members and veterans opportunities to gain skills to enter the solar workforce through their GI Bill benefits.

Obama delivered his remarks at Hill with a solar array as a backdrop. “Hill is leading by example,” he said, citing the amount of energy being produced on the base from the rows of giant solar panels gleaming in the bright midday sunlight behind him as well as other renewable sources, reported the Deseret News.

The three pilots are training nearly 200 active military personnel planning soon to leave the service at no cost to them, Dan Utech, Obama’s deputy special assistant for energy and climate change, told reporters.

Dan Cohen
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