New solar training program helps fill gaps in the industry

Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 6:28 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Jobs in the solar industry are on the rise in Georgia.

In 2022, the National Solar Jobs Census reported more than 5,000 positions filled in the state, and that number is expected to rise 10 percent by the end of this year.

Across the river in Aiken, two non-profits are introducing a first-of-its-kind job training program called the Solar United National Job Force Training Program.

Students in the first cohort spent time building solar panels and learning valuable skills to help them prepare for a career in a rapidly growing industry.

“Our focus is finding those students that need to be told about these opportunities,” said Co-Founder of Solar United National, Grant Scheffer.

The program is giving 19 students the opportunity to learn solar panel installation while earning $15 an hour.

For Christopher Gristle, it’s a look ahead to a brighter future.

“It’s a start for me. It’s something new. I came here with my scooter as a motivation because I don’t have a vehicle at the moment right now,” he said.

With the help of Aiken non-profits Umoja Village and the Imani Group, their goal is not only to train these students to be successful but to help address a huge issue.

Scheffer said: “The transition into renewable energy is putting such a huge demand on our labor force in this country, and there are not enough people to install these solar systems.”

In partnership with Solar United National, they’re putting $150,000 in grants from the Department of Energy to work and the students say this is just the beginning.

“I see myself running one of these companies,” said John Wideman Jr., a student.

When these students graduate on Friday, they’ll not only be walking away with life-changing skills but also with the opportunity to interview with solar companies across the area to jumpstart their careers.

While the training center in Aiken is the first, they’re hoping to expand on a national level, focusing on bringing this training to rural areas.

Graduation for the first cohort will be on Friday at the Center for African-American History at 6 p.m.