In a move to satisfy the growing demand for skilled workers in the increasingly competitive solar photovoltaic systems (PV) industry, the California Department of Industrial Relations/Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DIR/DAS) has released guidelines for the first Green apprenticeship occupation. These guidelines supply practical direction to apprenticeship programs that will nurture the workforces of the future. The need to recognized solar photovoltaic systems installer as an occupation was prompted by public hearings held in Northern and Southern California.
Green economy activity and technologies has produced a sufficient need for unique work and worker requirements. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) has designated PV Installer as a Green New and Emerging occupation.
Solar Photovoltaic Systems Installer Added to the Occupational Information Network
O*NET has also designation PV Installer as a Bright Outlook occupation in the green economy sector. As such, the projected growth of this occupation is from 7% to 13% between 2008 and 2018. In recognizing PV installers as an occupation suitable for apprenticeship, state-approved programs and relevant curriculum can now be developed to train apprentices. Although this acknowledgment did not address wages and benefits, it was stipulated that the programs would run a minimum of 24 months and 4000 class hours. Apprenticeship programs allow people to learn a profession while earning a decent wage. It combines on-the-job training with periodic classroom instruction that led to skill in that profession and journeymen status. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) lists a summary report, which pinpoints the tasks necessary to achieve competence in any field. PV Installer is a multi-craft occupation. While the major tasks are assembly, installation, and maintenance of PV systems, the field also requires a set of secondary skills that are just as vital, such as, electrical work, measuring, and cutting material.
RPS, Inc. Awarded First PV Installer Apprenticeship Program
This path to recognition has not been without controversy. In 2008, Jose Radzinsky, CEO of Renewable Power Solutions, Inc., (RPS) in San Jose, Cal., responded to the need for a well-trained workforce in the PV installation industry. RPS is a leading provider of solar energy installation services for residential, commercial, non-profit, and government buildings. It is also non-union. Radzinsky developed an apprenticeship program and submitted it to the California Apprenticeship Council (CAC) for approval. The CAC, which was established by the 1939 Shelly-Maloney Apprentice Labor Standards Act, is entrusted with the responsibility (among others) of setting policy for the DAS. The IBEW ( International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) had the right to veto any apprenticeship program if they could prove the service already exists. In March 2009, Radzinsky’s apprenticeship program was approved, but the IBEW quickly filed for an appeal to reverse this decision. Soon other union trades, including carpenters, plumbers, and roofer rose up to claim their piece of the solar energy pie. Political and legal contention ensued. From a totally different perspective this was looked at as a way for the electricians to eliminate non-union competition. In July 2010, the CAC voted overwhelmingly to reject the IBEW appeal. Recently, RPS, Inc. announced that it had been awarded the first newly accredited solar energy apprenticeship program by the State of California. Currently, RPS, Inc. has partnered with the Central County Occupational Center, a unit of the Metropolitan Educational District. Apprentices receive on-the-job training at RPS facilities and classroom instruction at the Center.
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