More than 140,000 people are employed in the solar industry, over half of these jobs can be found in the installation sector, the “boots on the ground” jobs. A growing workforce that daily requires new talented and passionate people. Consider these facts*:

  • Total solar employment in the US: 143,000
  • 2012-2013 US solar job growth: 20%
  • 2012-2013 US overall job growth: 2%

Solar Foundation’s 2013 Solar Jobs Census

Volunteers on a GRID Alternatives Install

 Although the numbers are impressive, it’s critical that all the stakeholders across the communities are engaged in this effort to transition the U.S. into a clean energy economy. To provide some insight into solar workforce development opportunities for the IDEAS For Us Network, during the 2014 Intersolar Conference I caught up with Co-Founder and CEO of GRID Alternatives, Erica Mackie.

GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit organization that brings the benefits of solar technology to communities that would not otherwise have access, providing needed savings for families, preparing workers for jobs in the fast-growing solar industry, and helping clean our environment. 

What is your long term vision for GRID Alternatives?

“The vision is that we make a transition to clean energy, and we do it in a way that includes everyone. By everyone we mean everyone, not just certain portions of our society. For us, low income folks and disadvantaged communities are so important, if we build a clean energy economy, we want everyone at the table.”

Where do you see college campuses and student organizations playing a role in the workforce development for the solar industry?

“The industry is growing, it grew 20% last year. It needs incredible talent, talent that includes all of these voices. I think young people are well poised to help make this transition to clean energy, and diversity is key. We need to bring these people out to installations and give them a meaningful way to touch and feel solar, to deeply understand what it’s all about.”

What mutualism do you view between the aforementioned topic and Grid Alternatives?

“It really is this magical technology that can make a huge difference in peoples lives. Often times the families we serve, not only does is make a big economic impact but these are the ones living downstream from traditional, power generation. For environmental justice reasons, it helps young persons to see, oh wow that’s what clean power can do and they begin to relate clean energy and health impacts.”

From your perspective, why has the experiential learning aspect of Grid Alternatives been so effective ?

“Not only does volunteering give you experience in installation, it makes you a better sales person, a better customer service representative. These people get the classroom, on the rooftop, theres nothing more powerful…the experimental learning is paying off.”

GRID Alternatives Solarthon Event


Opportunities for YOU!

As part of their Women in Solar Initiative, on August 6th from 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EST, GRID Alternatives will be hosting a Women in Solar Webinar: Sales and Marketing. To register, click here!

GRID Alternatives has 8 regional and affiliate offices; check out their ‘Where We Work’ page to get engaged!

Last but not least, this August, we’ll be announcing some incredible opportunities for IDEAS Members to join GRID Alternatives on their Solar Winter/Spring Break! Stay tuned!