No Train, No Gain: New Report from The Solar Foundation Highlights Solar Workforce Needs and Funding Mechanisms

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As Industry Continues its Rapid Growth, Need to Better Match Private Capital with Human Capital.

The Solar Foundation, SolarTech and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) today released Financing the Next Generation of Solar Workers, an exploratory paper examining the solar industry’s growing workforce development needs. Recognizing that much of the public funding for solar training programs has already expired – despite a profusion of studies pointing to increased worker demand – this paper introduces a number of possible funding mechanisms designed to attract both public and private capital and efficiently allocate funds to programs with the greatest need.

Starting with an analysis of the current solar workforce development landscape, the report’s authors examine which training programs are critical to the industry and likely to require private support over the near term. Given the significant funding gap in workforce training funding (estimated to be at least $70 million during the next several years), the study introduces three funding structures (public/private partnership, revolving loan program, and crowd sourcing) that have the potential to not only serve as sustainable financing mechanisms, but also facilitate the apportionment of these scarce resources to the training programs and markets with the greatest demand.

“Although novel, the three funding structures we developed are not intended to be prescriptive; rather we hope that by proposing them we can ignite a discussion between the solar industry and relevant stakeholders on the best way to bridge the impending workforce funding gap. We welcome stakeholder feedback and once it is adequately weighed we will consider implementation,” said Andrea Luecke, Executive Director of The Solar Foundation.

“The solar industry is expanding rapidly, but support for workforce development has not kept pace with market growth, creating a looming risk for the sector. In the next decade or so, companies will need to train hundreds of thousands people to develop and deploy millions of solar systems. This paper serves as a strong foundation for dialogue on the best way to fund market-based programs that will help solve this critical challenge for the U.S. solar industry,” said David McFeely, Director of Industry Solutions & Grant Programs, SolarTech.

This paper supplements the broader efforts of the SolarTech Workforce Innovations Collaborative (SWIC), which was a market-driven pilot program that takes a systems approach to source, train and place the right people in the right jobs at the right time. It surveyed companies, identified employer needs, developed training programs and provided case management for displaced professional-level workers with training and placement assistance. SWIC was an innovative pilot program in collaboration with Nova Workforce, Foothill-DeAnza Community College District and San Jose State University. It was funded through a pioneering grant program sponsored by the California Secretary of Labor.


Background Materials:
Financing the Next Generation of Solar Workers: An Exploration of Workforce Training Program Sustainability in the Context of Reduced Public Funding.
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About The Solar Foundation:
The Solar Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, non-lobbying organization founded in 1977 that strives to increase the widespread adoption of solar energy through educational outreach, policy research, and market transformation. Read more at

About SolarTech:
SolarTech strives to provide innovative expertise to accelerate local solar markets. Its mission is to remove barriers, ensuring a long-term, sustainable solar industry. Read more at

NABCEP offers certification and certificate programs to renewable energy professionals throughout North America and was designed to raise industry standards and promote consumer confidence. Read more at

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