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Education and a Skilled Workforce

The Future of Jobs and Training

The traditional route to career success follows a pretty straight academic line: hard work in elementary school, followed by hard work in high school, followed by hard work at the best college you can afford. Vocational education, on the other hand, is often treated as a consolation prize — the second-best option for the second-best kids.

But for a new generation facing rising college tuition and high post-graduate unemployment, old-fashioned vocational studies might offer the best chance at a solid career and a lifetime free of debt.

skilled workforce According to a recent survey, 50% of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed; many, in fact, are resorting to the kinds of entry-level jobs that they went to college to avoid. In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, economist Richard Vedder tried to explain why: He sees America as facing a glut of college graduates, as the supply of people with high priced degrees exceeds the demand for them.

Noting the large number of college grads occupying manual labor positions, he argued that their average wages — which dropped by 4.17% between 2008 and 2010 — were likely to continue to fall.

A Better Option

skilled workforceMeanwhile, things are looking up for a skilled workforce, as a demand for skilled workers remains strong. As a recent CareerBuilder survey reported, 40% of employers complained that they were unable to find sufficient skilled workers to fill their available positions. This is particularly striking in the solar industry. For students who can get into the solar training programs that prepare them for these jobs, the employment future could be promising.

Not surprisingly, the demand for skilled workers has driven up their wages. According to a 2012 study by Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce, 39% of men with an educational certificate earn more than men with an associate’s degree, and 24% earn more than men with a bachelor’s degree. For people in a STEM field — science, technology, engineering or mathematics — things are even better. According to another study by the Center, 63% of STEM workers with associate’s degrees make more money than the average person with a bachelor’s degree in the humanities or social sciences. Similar discrepancies exist across all levels of educational attainment, suggesting that what a student studies may ultimately matter a lot more than how long he or she studies it. The solar industry, which encompasses all aspects of a STEM field, is one of rapidly growing job rates.

The Solar Industry

skilled workforce

Taking into account that upgrade training for existing professionals, like the electrical, roofing, plumbing, contracting, and construction trades falls into the category of training from vocational schools, the opportunity is there to become more marketable and go after new jobs; especially jobs in the solar industry.

The U.S. now has over 6,400 MW of installed solar electric capacity, enough to power more than 1 million average American households. The residential market had its best quarter on record, with 119 MW installed. The segment continued to show steady growth, driven in part by third-party owned installations. The commercial market installed 258 MW in Q3 2012. It was a bounce back quarter as the segment grew 24 percent over Q2 2012. Utility installations grew 36 percent in the third quarter of 2012 over Q3 2011. Q4 2012 is projected to be a record quarter for the utility market. See SEIA’s Solar Industry Data

This rapidly growing industry can only grow as fast as the supply of skilled workforce available. The whole idea of creating “green jobs” for just anyone looking for work was poor judgement. The fact that most “green jobs” simply require an additional skill-set for existing jobs gives a great advantage for tradesman looking to get into the solar industry. Solar training programs are out there offering the alternative to expensive semester and year long programs; short, intensive workshops that lead in the direction of certification. A certification, coupled with the years of experience in a given trade, make for one qualified candidate for a solar industry position.


The graphic below was provided by frugaldad.com
skilled workforce

  1. January 13, 2013


    “A certification, coupled with the years of experience in a given trade, make for one qualified candidate for a solar industry position.”

    A. In this situation better caught than taught. For example, a licensed contractor, the qualifier is the one certified as qualified. A qualifying individual must have had, within the last 10 years, at least four (4) full years of experience in the classification – as solar. A license, for instance, would be the ‘hat’ and any additional certification(s) would be the ‘feather(s).’

    1. A license distinguishes the qualified from the unqualified.
    2. To become qualified for a license, may include from various resources and different organizations.
    3. A licensed contractor is able to both practice the trade and do the work.
    4. And would be those individuals who specifically construct, alter, or offer to construct or alter structures.

    There is also the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA) …

    B. The “… construction trades fall(s) into the category of training from vocational schools” By definition, National Electrical Code (NEC) Article 100: Qualified Person “One who has skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of the electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training to recognize and avoid the hazards involved.” ; as OSHA Subpart M. I believe the proverb, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, …”

    What do you think in this situation – better ‘caught than taught or both?’


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