Research shows that U.S. military veterans as a community can be valuable assets to companies that provide renewable energy. The thing is–those companies have to recruit the veterans to come work for them.
Veterans have a leg up on their competition due to what they learn during their service. Military service gives veterans from the last 15 years a baseline understanding of energy. They are experienced with technology, have conducted operations for energy security and have seen energy poverty in other parts of the world. Veterans also have a strong entrepreneurial spirit–some have even created their own solar businesses, such as Veteran Solar Systems in New York and Semper Solaris in Southern California.
Veterans also have access to Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits, including continuing education and training for the solar industry. Ten solar organizations provided training in the Solar Ready Vets program, which trained 300 service members last year. Earlier this year, Solar Energy International was certified to provide solar training supported by the Post 9-11 GI Bill. In April 2015, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) committed to the Joining Forces Initiative, led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, to have 50,000 veterans and family members employed in the solar industry by 2020.
As the solar industry continues to grow, more jobs will open up for veterans. There are currently 1.3 million active duty uniformed military, including the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The National Guard and Reserve accounts for another 1.1 million. About 200,000 active duty members transition out of the military each year and enter the workforce.
To recruit veterans, energy companies should describe incorporate paid internships to student veterans and/or start a veteran employee resource group. It requires investments of time, resources and leadership, but could be worth it when you add veteran employees into the company. It will take plenty of buy-in for the Joining Forces Initiative to reach its goal.