by Anders Alexander
In Washington State, the solar industry is construction and manufacturing.
Large solar companies in places like California have jobs that are just like at any other large company, and anyone with mainstream skills like accounting can get a solar job. In smaller markets like here in Washington, the jobs are the same as with any small construction company. There are laborers, tradespeople like electricians, sales reps, project managers, designers, and administrative staff. For really small solar companies it’s the owners and some laborers and maybe an administrative staff member.
iTek Energy is the main solar manufacturer in Washington and has its operation in Bellingham where they employ about 80 people. So if you want a manufacturing solar job it's easy to find your target.
The Washington solar industry is growing and so are the companies. With the growth of the local solar market, there will be more mainstream jobs in solar and more jobs in general. The most recognizable goal in the past has been installer or sales rep. It helps to have training in solar, but it does not take long to learn enough to do the job well if you have prior experience in the type of job it is.
Making a career change into solar works well since there are not many job seekers in Washington with prior solar experience. Having a hard skill like CAD, accounting, project management, and sales is what a solar company needs more in a new hire over solar knowledge. If someone has both solar knowledge and a hard skill then that is obviously the best position to be in.
Coming out of High School or College and looking for a solar job can have its advantages if a solar education can be shown on a resume. A recent graduate might need to get another job first though to build their resume to get the solar job they want. Even when the solar job has been achieved it might not be the desired job and so ongoing training will lay the foundation for career advancement.
Starting out in the physical installation of solar can be a really good move, especially for a young person, because it supplies that deep knowledge of the product. But, it is not required, and for someone not at the beginning of their career, it is probably not the best financial move as installers do generally get paid the least in a solar company.
Solar installers will always be electrical contractors and they will always need an electrician to complete an install. Becoming an electrician by getting a residential or commercial license is an effective way to get a solar job. At some companies, you can start out as an installer and become an electrician so you can lead an install crew yourself.
If you are willing to move then going to a place like California can give you a larger market and more types of opportunities in seeking a solar job. For myself, I worked in California for solar companies for 4 years after graduating college and it was a good way to become an attractive new employee to Washington solar companies.
I wish anyone well in their pursuit of a solar job. And if you want to discuss this topic further then just send me an email – Anders@Bloomsolarenergy.com