Driven by environmental consciousness and reduced energy production costs, consumers are now paying “enthusiastic attention” to solar energy solutions, according to IBM. This attention helped fuel noteworthy annual growth of 66 percent between 2012 and 2017, and now has the solar power industry revenue reaching nearly $6 billion. And despite near-term policy uncertainty for renewable energy in the U.S., solar energy’s fundamental prospects for continued growth and adoption remain positive, according to Goldman Sachs Research.
The outlook is equally sunny for jobs in the solar power industry, which saw employment grow nine times faster than the overall U.S. economy from 2012-2017. Solar employment grew by 110 percent overall or 16 percent annually, adding 131,000 jobs, according to non-profit industry group, The Solar Foundation. Within this period, one in every 100 new jobs was a solar job.
One factor behind the increase in jobs is sheer size. “Solar farms have become larger and more efficient in recent years,” says Collyn Varnes, director of national sales for Aerotek. “Where once the average output was 100 mW, now you’ll see outputs averaging more than 200, 300 or even 400 mW,” he says. This has created new opportunities for solar panel installers, among other positions.
Similar to the increased volume of solar power installers, the industry has also seen a spike in demand for management candidates, including the crew leads, foremen, general foremen and supervisors needed to oversee the general labourers. “Especially if you have a significant percentage of less-experienced labourers,” Varnes says, “you might need more managers in order to provide a high level of supervision and training.”
When hiring management staff, Varnes says, solar energy employers are primarily looking for:
“The biggest challenge is that the most proficient managers know they’re sought-after,” says Varnes, “and they know how to evaluate their options. If they live on the West Coast, for instance, they might prefer to affiliate with a company that mostly works relatively close to home.”
Although pay is always a driving factor for what offers a candidate opts to take, other considerations may include:
“One distinguishing factor can be how a company treats its employees when they’re away from home,” he notes. “They’re working long hours, so often they want to know what kind of accommodations they might receive while on the job or how often they’ll be able to get away to visit family.” Because of this, he notes, larger, more established companies may have an advantage on smaller start-ups. A company that won a contract by bidding low might be too stretched financially to offer the kind of benefits workers prefer.
“The solar energy world is a small community,” Varnes notes, “so sometimes the same workers are running into each other every so often, which can be an issue if there was conflict in the past. However, on the flip side, people who worked well together in the past might be more likely to take on a new job if it involves working with each other again.”
As bright predictions continue for the industry, it’s likely the recruiting landscape will remain tight for the near future. Working with a trusted recruiting partner can make the difference in the quantity and quality of the job candidates solar energy employers are able to reach.
Want to learn more about recruitment in the solar power industry? Contact Aerotek now.