The organizations, armed with a $4 million grant from California's EDD (Employment Development Department), are looking to scale the program to hundreds of other regions once "best practices" for the training and selection process are established.
"It's a way to better match employees to employers," according to SolarTech's David McFeely. Doug Payne, The Executive Director of SolarTech, said, "The industry doesn't just need more people, but better matches."
Instead of, say, a surplus of solar installers being trained because that was the trend, the SolarTech Workforce Innovations Collaborative (SWIC) reaches out to greentech employers and finds out the skills they'll be looking for in upcoming hires. SWIC then folds those skill sets into its worker training programs at local Bay Area community colleges.
Pre-qualified workers emerge from the program with the precise skills needed by the employers -- whether it be solar sales or energy efficiency sales or installation, project management, or software engineering. These skills are still in high demand despite the current national employment situation, according to Payne. The Collaborative has expanded its reach to cover solar as well as energy efficiency, vehicle-to-grid, and the built environment.
Laura Caccia of Nova said, "We can now understand what the industry needs, how we can get people into the workforce and make them employable for a real job, today." Caccia added, "We've trained 246 people within this program -- about 70 percent of the 50 percent who have completed the program have found jobs."
The bottom line is that the program takes a 45- to 70-day hiring process which costs $10,000 to $15,000 and cuts it to a timeframe of under 30 days and a cost of nothing. "We need to get the word out that there is a free-of-charge program for the HR sector," and "Then we can scale to 100 local markets."
SWIC graduates have been hired by solar and energy efficiency employers, including SolarCity, Sol Focus, SunWize, SunEdison, Real Goods Solar and Siemens.