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Training for Tomorrow


While speaking on a panel session at a conference I was asked, " What keeps you up at night as a leader in the industry?"

And without hesitation I said, "Untrained and unqualified workers."


 

The Stage

I have to set the stage for those not in the industry: there are so many new organizations and technicians that are in solar fields or on rooftops all over the world working to get systems installed and operating.


This work is generally performed in pairs or by lone worker, with many hazards. Due to the industry growth many technicians lack the right training, manuals, and information to not only be safe but effective.



The Inflation Reduction Act will have a significant impact on the number of workers needed to change the energy infrastructure needed to power future generations.


The need for qualified workers in the solar, electric vehicle charging, and renewables will drive intense competition for workers with electrical skillsets and experience. (emphasis on qualified).



 

Training HAS Changed

Let’s face it, training is not what it used to be.

Training and education, like most industries, has evolved in varying ways from the advancement in technology.


We all have from having content or information readily available since the internet and smart phones were mainstream. Being able to learn things on-demand is part of our everyday lives, to include social platforms.


Whether we want to admit it, many individuals and industries have some resistance to change. Sometimes this may just be a slow response to the ever-changing world we live in. With apps and social platforms playing a major role in our every day lives, the ability to access content is very different than years ago.

On-demand video and training content may fill a specific need at a specific time, however the key to actually developing the skills needed to make it efficient and effective requires routine utilization of the skills. That is why certain jobs are referred to as "skilled trades."



 

Time and Skill Development

Is there a difference between using content and developing skills? The simple answer is yes, and this has a direct impact on businesses.


The simple answer is yes, and this has a direct impact on businesses.

So I want to fix my garbage disposal, I can go online and learn how to do it. I want to create a graph or pivot table from data in an Excel file, I can go online and figure it out. Neither of those things are my expertise, and I likely am able to get through it with some pausing of the video and time. There is also a high likelihood the end-product may not be as expected or desired.


Time is money. If we want to save money, we may watch a video to fix something ourselves and save money by giving up some time. If a business does not have properly trained employees, this time causes inefficiencies that can sometimes go unnoticed. And the primary reason it will go unnoticed is simply the speed at which businesses are moving, there is no time to see how employees are progressing or developing their skills. Another reason it may go unnoticed particularly in the solar industry is due to manufacturing downtime that is often times exempt from performance metrics or tracking for sites when it comes to response or repair time. This makes tracking technician inefficiency or skill gaps tougher to identify.



 

Identifying Training Gaps

So how can a business solve something that might not be noticed?


The answer is being able to understand the how work is being done and the skills of those doing the work. Numerous studies have shown a what is referred to as the skills gap or the difference between the skills required for a job and the skills employee actually possesses.

Though a person might have schooling or a resume that shows he or she has electrical or solar experience, however due to exponential growth the industry has moved very quickly, leaving many field personnel to figure it out without reliable training, processes, or documentation.


This is not only unsafe for the worker or co-workers, but also has an impact on the reliability of the industry.


 

Let the Potential Shine!

So how does this apply to renewables like solar or electric vehicle infrastructure?


To ensure the energy infrastructure of the future meets the needs of our everyday lives, it will require a workforce capable of not only building, operating, and repairing these systems but in a way that is safe and efficient.

With exponential growth in the development of new energy infrastructure, we must empower workers to understand the complex nature of the systems, variations from one site to another, and routinely approach.


This requires investing in training and certification programs, building processes, and ensuring workers have documentation and content that is effective.

Having the right training or organizational structure that can readily identify potential skills gaps and provide solutions can not only impact the site performance, business financials and customer satisfaction but ultimately sustainability in general.


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