Employees are at the Heart of the Solar Industry

15 Jul 2019

As with any growing industry in the construction field, the solar power industry is facing a shortage of skilled labor that needs to be addressed if the industry is going to ride the wave of growth.  According to the Solar Jobs Census conducted by the Solar Foundation inSeptember and October of 2018, the solar industry predicts seven percent job growth this year, with 259,400 jobs nationwide. 

Across all fields of construction, the industry is seeing a severe labor shortage during a time when it should be flourishing. According to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, the construction field is one of the few industries with consistent growth in the number of available jobs and contracts. We must spread the word that the solar industry is promising, rewarding, and provides a great alternative to college. From a potential employer’s point of view, what’s the solar installer job outlook, and what can the industry do to meet the employment demand? Companies across the U.S. strive to recruit, train, and retain employees using a number of strategies. The following tips for success are a good start.

The importance of retention

First and foremost, aim to retain as many capable and skilled employees as possible by providing competitive pay and benefits coupled with a healthy and enjoyable work environment. It’s easier to retain employees by making them feel valued and wanted than to find new employees who may or may not meet your human resources criteria, especially within a worker constricted market. 

Make employees feel valued and wanted for a job well done, either financially or with other means that measure the quality of workmanship, motivation, or leadership skills. A skilled solar installer can earn up to $50 per hour. Additional incentives include a full health plan and other benefits, such as a 401K retirement plan and opportunities for earning overtime pay.

Money isn’t always the main motivation; according to a study published in Psychology Today,how valued employees feel in their workplace is often more important than what they earn. Many employees consider management recognition more fulfilling than financial reward. 

The solar industry has a reputation for high employee turnover. If companies want their employees to stay long-term, they need to show them that there is an achievable path to more responsibility and success. Knowing that a job offers significant longevity and rewards is a key factor in attracting and retaining workers, especially younger ones. Be direct about how new employees will fit into the mold, and how their roles and responsibilities will contribute to the business. Finding new employees through word of mouth is a high compliment - happy workersare the best ambassadors for recruitment and retention. 

The importance of training

Installing modern solar energy systems takes a high level of knowledge and skill. Developing these skills, along with being well versed in workplace safety, requires substantial training. A well-trained employee is a valuable employee who is motivated to do his or her best work every day they are on the job. Often, they become project supervisors and leaders, and are critical factors in improving workplace safety, productivity, and quality control. Comprehensive on-the-job training ensures that all workers - whether new or long-time employees - are fully prepared to safely and successfully handle any tasks that the job requires.  

Additionally, the roofing and solar industries are constantly monitored by the federal government through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA inspectors should be recognized as an integral part of safety.

Looking ahead

California took a major step toward achieving its net-zero energy goal by adopting a policy last year making solar energy systems standard on virtually every new home built in the state, starting in January 2020.This will most likely result in tens of thousands of new homes being equipped with solar systems every year, which will help fuel industry growth over the next three to five years. Other energy progressive states - Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington­ – are expected tofollow California’s lead, especially as the cost of solar products decrease with better technology and growing demand. Thoughtful legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the local, state, and national levels is creating thousands of new solar jobs. The need for skilled and savvy employees has never been greater; as an industry, we must be fully prepared to meet the challenges. Given the current labor shortages, when it comes to recruiting, training, and retaining, companies will need strategies like these for success.


Mark Vogel is President and COO at PetersenDean Roofing & Solar- Builder Division, United States. PetersenDean is a full-service, privately-held roofing and solar company in the United States that specializes in new residential and commercial construction. The Fremont, California-based company employs 3,000 workers and operates in 11 states: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas. 

PetersenDean | http://www.petersendean.com



Volume: 2019 July/August