Many clean energy companies, including those in the solar energy field, are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill their job openings.
St. Petersburg College (SPC) is addressing this problem in the Tampa Bay area by partnering to support the first state-approved Solar Apprenticeship Program in Florida, sponsored by the University of Central Florida's Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC).
The Solar Apprenticeship Program is designed to provide apprentices with structured on-the-job training and related technical instruction while they work for an approved member of the apprenticeship solar consortium. The program's courses are fully paid for by the employer and will prepare the apprentices for industry-recognized certifications.
"I think this will be the most comprehensive program in the state," said Jennifer Bodnar, SPC Apprenticeship Coordinator. "It includes curriculum that other programs don't have, like thermal and plumbing, and it covers both commercial and residential solar."
Employers who are consortium members will benefit greatly from the program by upscaling their workforce with skilled employees. The program shows employees that they are valued and that their company is invested in providing them with formal training, which can lead to increased retention and commitment.
The Expansion of Registered Apprenticeship Programs (ERAP) grant, awarded to the college last year, can help defray costs to businesses. With the grant, SPC can offer funds to offset some of the expenses to employers, as well as explore additional funding resources. As a state college, SPC has access to a wide network to help reduce employer costs.
Colleen Kettles, FSEC Director of Workforce and Business Development, believes that the Solar Apprenticeship Program is crucial to Florida's workforce.
"The Solar Energy Technician Apprenticeship program addresses the future needs in Florida's workforce," Kettles said. "I am very grateful that St. Pete College has stepped up and is working with us on the training."
Employers interested in participating in the Solar Apprenticeship Program can complete an online form on the SPC website. Those interested in becoming an apprentice can also fill out a form to start the application process.
The Solar Apprenticeship Program is expected to attract a significant number of participants and provide a much-needed solution to the workforce shortages in the clean energy sector.
What do you think of St. Petersburg College's Solar Apprenticeship Program? Do you believe that apprenticeships are a valuable way to address workforce shortages in the clean energy sector?
Do you think that more programs like this are needed to encourage people to pursue careers in clean energy?
Share your thoughts and insights in the comments section below.
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