by Francis Hodsoll, Jon Hillis and Melody S. Gee

Melody S. Gee is a business and technical writer in St. Louis, MO.

Since 2018, The Solar Hands-on Instructional Network of Excellence (SHINE) has worked with Southside Virginia Community College and solar developers like SolUnesco to educate, train, and secure jobs for a new generation of solar workers. As Virginia commits legislatively to meeting ambitious renewable energy goals, and corporations like Microsoft are making major solar purchases in the state, SHINE remains committed to growing solar within the state and advocating for local hiring.

Education and Training

Through job fairs, informational sessions, social media outreach, SHINE recruited and enrolled its first two cohorts this October and November. After 2-week intensive class sessions, 100% of both cohorts have successfully graduated with new skills and industry insights.

With a dynamic and evolving curriculum, three instructors from Southside taught the classes and directed lab hours. Stuart Taylor led MCCER Core Certification and the hands-on solar training; Pam Taylor led the course titled OSHA 10; and Barry Anderson led students through First Aid/CPR training. Feedback from students and faculty has been overwhelmingly positive, not only about the experience of the program itself, but especially about the opportunity for quality local jobs.

Securing Jobs for the Future

Even more exciting, almost half of the students from the first two cohorts have been hired, and are already at work clearing land for a solar farm in Mecklenburg County. By January, these new hires plan to begin installing panels and racking on the site.

SHINE’s teachers and career coaches continue to work with those students who may still be applying for solar positions, offering ongoing support and networking.

Solar Partners across Virginia

As SHINE’s fourth cohort prepares for their classes to begin in early January, solar partners like SolUnesco will continue to serve as key industry resources, helping SHINE discover when and where new projects are beginning so future cohorts can be strategically timed to offer developers newly trained talent who are ready to get to work. This process will help staff the growing solar industry in Virginia with local workers and allow for the ongoing growth of clean energy.