Diversifying the Solar Workforce: Pathways to Success
Even as solar energy has grown twenty-fold in the past decade, the benefits are unevenly shared. Black and indigenous workers have been excluded from the solar workforce with white people holding nearly three quarters of all solar jobs in the U.S.
In 2020, a challenge was how to train the next generation of solar professionals when the traditional classroom is not an option. For college instructors Steven Weaver of the Lake Washington Institute of Technology and Stephanie Bostwick of the Northwest Indian College, the answer was simple: find a way to bring the classroom to the students. Spark Northwest connected these institutions with Remote Energy, a Tacoma-based organization that “brings solar energy training to underserved communities worldwide”.
Remote Energy created a virtual Solar Photovoltaic training program that teaches students the fundamentals of solar electrical systems and allows exploration of a new career path in the clean energy industry. The program includes take-home lab kits so students can supplement their online studies with hands-on experiments with solar panels, electrical meters, and small water pumps.
For students like Reuben Martinez, a Makah Tribal member studying clean energy, access to educational opportunities like this are crucially important:
“As Indigenous peoples and communities, we are sovereign nations. I dream of the day that we can say we control our own energy production and consumption. We are a long way from making that dream come true, but this challenge is an opportunity for our tribes to come together and raise each other up. This is just another step we need to take in order for us to take more control over our own native narrative.”
Through the Access Solar Program, Spark Northwest is helping organizations like the Northwest Indian College and students like Rueben to shape the clean energy future.
To learn more about the Access Solar Program, visit sparknorthwest.org.