By the Randolph Solar Development Team
Now launching its 7th cohort, the Solar Hands-On Instructional Network of Excellence (SHINE), is preparing Virginia residents for a major influx of solar and construction jobs, and pushing developers to hire locally.
Virginia’s Solar Workforce Development
Over a 2-day intensive curriculum, with both classroom and hands-on field instruction, students earn a certificate that gives them a competitive edge for not only solar jobs, but general construction positions as well. “Our students range in age from 19 to 50,” explains SHINE Executive Director, David Peterson. “They live in Prince Edward, Charlotte, Campbell, Lunenberg, and Brunswick Counties, to name a few.”
What students find in the SHINE program is partnership and job development. The program was founded as a public-private partnership among Southside Virginia Community College, Chesapeake Solar and Storage Association (CHESSA), leading solar developers like SolUnesco, construction companies, energy consulting, recruiting firms, and technology companies.
“We have a vast network,” Peterson notes. “Every SHINE graduate gets a job interview.” Since its launch in 2019, 100% of SHINE certified students have been provided opportunities to work in Virginia solar industry at companies like Wood PLC, Strata Solar, Overland Construction, Apex Clean Energy, and other firms. The majority of SHINE graduates start work within 45 miles of their home.
“One major benefit is that a SHINE certificate is also a construction arts equivalency,” Peterson continues. “Students will be ready to become Solar Installation Technicians, and also fill nearly any construction position immediately.”
Leveraging The Solar Jobs Pipeline
Solar projects hire technicians by the hundreds when they enter the construction phase. SHINE carefully monitors the status and progress of every solar project in Virginia, which typically require three plus years to acquire all permits and rights to connect to the electrical transmission or distributions systems. By watching the pipeline, SHINE knows exactly when those jobs will become available and when their workforce will need to be ready.
“We’ve identified over 40,000 positions that will need to be filled over the next six to eight years in the Virginia solar industry,” Peterson shares. “That’s billions in economic benefits to communities that are ready to host the development and fill those jobs with its residents.”
The Urgent Business Case for Solar
According to Peterson, Virginia couldn’t be better suited for solar development.
The Commonwealth is the perfect host for solar because of our terrain. “We’ve got 3 gigawatts of capacity in our state right now, and most people have never even seen a solar facility because they are so well buffered and set back in the woods.”
And Virginia has the right infrastructure—connection lines and distribution facilities—needed to bring solar energy from the panels into homes and businesses. “The future is electric and people in rural communities are in a position to have a say, and a big part of that future,” Peterson emphasizes. “SHINE wants the benefits of solar to stay in our communities.”