Together, AZ Engineering, Solar Energy International (SEI), North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) and Solar One along with local partners, will establish a multi-phase approach to engage the larger Puerto Rican solar energy industry in an inclusive process to assess the current state of skills and gaps in the sector, and establish recommendations for career pathway improvements to help ensure a high standard for safety and quality of solar energy installations on the island.
In the first phase, the partners will focus on data collection and community engagement. They will create and distribute a survey through local clean energy associations to hundreds of solar business owners and practitioners to understand the needs of solar companies in Puerto Rico and identify the common issues, challenges, and opportunities affecting the current landscape of solar career pathways.
Then, partners will solidify a Community of Support that includes solar companies, training organizations, and other stakeholders to ensure that any recommendations to improve the career pathway are industry-driven. A focus group with at least 20 representatives of leading solar organizations in Puerto Rico will be established and convened to discuss needs and next steps.
Finally, partners will utilize survey results and focus group input to define potential career pathway improvements and share these recommendations with appropriate stakeholders. In order to encourage voluntary uptake of potential recommendations, the partners will work with the focus group and other members of the solar community to agree to recognize, encourage, and uphold them. They will then work with training providers to create alignment between any certifications and educational offerings to help grow the workforce and increase accessibility for people entering the sector.
It is a priority for the group to create an inclusive process to ensure effective recommendations and ample support across the sector.
February – April 2020 Phase I: Data Collection and Community Engagement; Create and send out survey; Analyze results; Engage community of stakeholders.
April – June 2020 Phase II: Solidify Community of Support & Define recommendations; Ensure relevant stakeholders with power to support the implementation agree about this process; Establish focus group.
June – January 2021 Phase III: Define potential career pathway improvements based on survey results and stakeholder input; Share certification recommendations with appropriate stakeholders; Work with training providers and technical experts, in coordinating with the focus group, to create alignment between curriculum offerings, available certifications, and the needs of stakeholders.
In Puerto Rico, the centralized, fossil-fuel based energy system has faced repeated and severe disruptions in the face of recent natural disasters. To remedy this, the island has taken the first steps towards a more resilient and sustainable energy system by committing to reaching 100% renewables by 2050. As underemployment and unemployment rates in Puerto Rico remain high, the economic opportunities associated with the expanding clean energy sector offer a hopeful new narrative for clean jobs on the island. According to US Labor statistics, the fastest growing occupation in the next decade will be solar PV installer, demonstrating the significant potential for new jobs in this field.
In order to accelerate solar energy in Puerto Rico, ensure that the transformation is locally led, and ensure high safety and quality standards, there will need to be robust solar workforce development initiatives on the island. The USDOE report “Strategies for Solar Workforce Development” argues that the creation of career pathways - the map of skills, education, training, and certifications required for advancement - is an essential strategy for effective workforce development. Possessing a certification, for example, has been shown to help employees move up in the industry, from entry level PV installer to crew chief, solar project manager, and even project developer. 62% of solar employers in the US prefer to hire candidates that have passed the NABCEP exam, the predominant entry-level solar certification (USDOE).
Currently, the majority of solar installers in Puerto Rico lack any recognized entry-level certification, which may result in safety concerns, inconsistencies in quality, and a lack of advancement opportunities in the sector. Puerto Rico’s Renewable Energy Installer certificate requires the applicant to already be a licensed electrician or electrical engineer in Puerto Rico, which itself requires multiple years of training and education. The process of establishing improved career pathways for the Puerto Rican solar industry will create an expanded and better prepared pipeline of future workers, increase the accessibility of the sector to underrepresented groups like women and low-income communities, and help to establish a stronger, more unified voice for the industry.
The partners would welcome the sharing of relevant data to inform career pathway recommendations; diverse community engagement in the process from all areas of the industry (financial, manufacturers, installers, EPCs); financial support for community engagement activities (administration, marketing and outreach, hosting meetings, committee travel); and funds for the human technical resources to align and or/develop training curriculum.
Survey data and analysis will be shared with all key stakeholders connected to the renewable energy industry.
Expertise in the design and delivery of certification programs for the renewable energy industry will be shared with the community at large.
Developed training curriculum will be provided to support the career pathway opportunities for those entering the solar sector.