Choosing a training program
If you are ready to enter the solar industry as a professional be sure to ask the right questions:
What type of career do I want?
There are many careers within the solar industry. These can range from accountants to installers and many related industries such as energy efficiency and building sciences could be a great home for someone with solar knowledge and skills. Before you decided on what path you are going down be sure to evaluate the skills and education you have as well as how much you are willing to invest in both time and money to learn new skills.
Next, take the time to get out from behind your computer and talk to those already in the industry. Ask about their experiences both on the job and in their education. What do they like? What might have they done differently? You can save yourself time and money by doing a little research. Good opportunities to meet industry professionals include trade shows, public workshops and volunteering for organizations like Solar Oregon.
Where should I go for training?
Where you attend training depends on several factors; your currents skill level, the career you want when you're done and the requirements in the community where you will be working. A good list of careers within the solar industry and general information on training and duties can be found on pages 8-14 of Eastern Oregon Renewable Energies Nonprofit: Opportunities in Renewable Energy report
If you are already working in an electrical trade and want to include PV or Solar Thermal into your business then you would need a hands on training program with certification.
Entry Level PV Exam - Entry Level Program is designed for those individuals wanting to get into the solar field; achievement of the NABCEP PV Entry Level Exam is a way for candidates to demonstrate that they have achieved a basic knowledge of the fundamental principles of the application, design, installation and operation of grid-tied and stand-alone PV Systems.
NABCEP Professional Certifications
Limited Renewable Energy Technician (LTR) See Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association (OSEIA) for further description
For LTR programs and Apprentice programs see:
Renewable Energy JATC (Lane CC) Eugene
NECA - IBEW Training Center Portland
For a more complete list see the State of Oregon Website
Solar Heating and Cooling Installer (STL) See Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association (OSEIA) for further description
Renewable Energy JATC Heating and Cooling Installer (Lane CC) Eugene
If you are making a career change from an unrelated field or are just out of high school an engineering degree could be the right path to solar for you.
Most universities in Oregon offer engineering degree programs. A couple of these which are aimed at renewable energy engineering are:
Graduates often find careers in fields such as semiconductor manufacturing, PV system design and clean energy systems.
Many local Community Colleges also offer renewable energy training programs. Please see our list of schools for available programs.
What should I look for in a school?
Be sure to stop by the school you choose before you sign up. Take a look at their facilities and talk to the instructors. Don't be afraid to ask for instructor's credentials, ask questions about onsite safety and course content. Be sure you will come away with the certifications you need for the career type and location you will be working in. Some schools offer help with career placement in which case you might want to check into their placement rate and speak with former students to see what their experiences were like.