Paul C Watson, chief strategy officer with NATiVE Solar, joined Studio 512 Co-Host Stephanie Gilbert to talk about NATiVE Solar’s role in alternative energy workforce development and the current state of US Energy and Employment in Q2 2022.

Can you give us a high-level overview of updates regarding solar jobs and what many call a Critical Infrastructure Workforce?

“The United States Energy and Employment Report (USEER) captures employment, workforce, industry, occupation, unionization, demographic, and hiring information by energy industry technology groups and just published their report yesterday. These groups represent the fields of electric power generation; transmission, distribution, and storage; fuels; energy efficiency; and motor vehicles and component parts.”

“In 2021, the Energy sector employed more than 7.8 million Americans. Mind you this is the same year $47M left the workforce. We have a gap and tremendous unmet demand for trade skills. We are also still waiting on DOL to approve a solar apprentice program, but that hasn’t stopped us because as an industry we must grow in spite of the solar rollercoaster.”

What is NATiVE’s role in solar jobs and workforce development?

“Currently, we focus on solar in schools and expanding on success and lessons learned with DVOC pilot. We plan to launch programs this year in College Station-Bryan, TX and soon at schools in Greater Houston — exciting news for my old stomping grounds near Tomball and Conroe.”

“We continue to deepen collaboration and partnership with Solar Austin and Texas Solar Energy Society and most recently joined to support IREC and SEIA as we develop national standards for solar training, including tracks with installation and services.”

So what are the real job opportunities for our viewers?

“Right now we need installers. Yes, that includes getting on roofs in Texas heat. We also need designers and drone pilots. Soon, roles will be further defined that include grid security, physical and cyber aspects that drive resilience and strive to keep the lights on.”

“We also need service technicians, and as I touched on earlier with DOL support, these are different roles and skillsets. This means a roofer can easily be trained to do a solar installation, but operations, maintenance and troubleshooting for power quality services needs subject matter experts with a problem solving mind.”

“What is mindblowing is that if sophomore or juniors dive in now, they could graduate with a six figure job in the trades. What we really need is to quickly re-introduce work-study and vocational programs into ISDs and leverage the historic leadership seen by Career and Technology Education Directors almost 50 years ago when trade skills was in vogue.”

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This segment is paid for by NATiVE Solar and is intended as an advertisement. Opinions expressed by the guest(s) on this program are solely those of the guest(s) and are not endorsed by this television station.