Linking Veterans to Solar Installation Jobs

men installing rooftop solar photovoltaic panels
GRID Alternatives makes solar power available for low-income families.
GRID Alternatives

Veterans Green Jobs, a nonprofit organization that puts American veterans to work in the green economic sector, is launching a partnership with GRID Alternatives, an Oakland, California-based nonprofit solar installer. Through this partnership, the two organizations will advance training and employment opportunities for military veterans in the clean energy field across the United States.

GRID Alternatives installs solar electric systems exclusively for low-income families, using a volunteer-based model that provides community members and job trainees opportunities to gain hands-on solar installation experience. GRID Alternatives Colorado opened its doors in the Denver area in January 2013 after a pilot project in Lakewood last fall, and hired Chuck Watkins, former senior director with Veterans Green Jobs, as its founding executive director.

The new partnership brings together GRID Alternatives’ expertise in solar installation with Veterans Green Jobs’ growing network of job-seeking veterans in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sector. It also opens up volunteer and training opportunities for military veterans interested in exploring solar energy as a career path. GRID Alternatives Colorado expects to complete its first installations in April.

“Veterans Green Jobs has been a great partner for us in Colorado from the get-go, connecting us with veteran volunteers and providing us with all manner of logistical support,” said Erica Mackie, CEO and co-founder of GRID Alternatives. “This is a great opportunity for both of our organizations to advance our shared goal of promoting green energy and increasing green employment for people who need it most.”

During last fall’s pilot project, a team of 18 volunteers representing Veterans Green Jobs worked alongside volunteers and job training teams from Xcel Energy, the Colorado Energy Office, Solar Energy International, Ecotech Institute, Energy Outreach Colorado, Red Rocks Community College, University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado School of Mines, and corporate sponsor Wells Fargo to install solar for 12 families in a Habitat for Humanity development.

Among the volunteers was Danny Moore, a veteran of the U.S. Army who is currently enrolled in Ecotech Institute’s Renewable Energy Technology program. He signed up for the GRID Alternatives solar installation to get practical field experience that will complement his classroom studies. “My schooling has set me up for this, but I need more than the schoolhouse knowledge,” Danny said. He worked with his team members to install rails and lay out solar arrays, and also did wiring and junction box installations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in June 2012, of veterans who have served since 2001, 12.7 percent were unemployed in May, and the youngest (18 to 24 years of age) are unemployed at a rate of 23.5 percent. More than one million veterans are projected to leave the military between 2011 and 2016, placing increased demands on the workforce.

To help combat the unemployment problem veterans face upon exiting the military, Veterans Green Jobs is working to connect military veterans with job and training opportunities in the green economic sector. With a goal of placing 300 veterans into jobs by mid-2013, the nonprofit relies on strategic partnerships with employers and education providers such as GRID Alternatives.

Veterans who get in touch with Veterans Green Jobs’ employment program receive one-on-one counseling to create an employment pathway that meets their needs. Career counselors assess veterans’ current skills and military experience, provide coaching to help them refine and shape their resume in order to match available job openings, and recommend any needed training or education to develop skills. Then, the program connects veterans with employers who need skilled workers and have job openings, and stays in touch to ensure a good fit.

Veterans Green Jobs publishes a weekly e-newsletter, The Jobs Page, which provides announcements about job opportunities, training and education opportunities, and upcoming events. The Jobs Page is available at www.veteransgreenjobs.org/the-jobs-page.

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