As program offerings explode to match
projected job growth, the industry redoubles
quality assurance efforts
By Jane Weissman and Jerry ventre
( hvcc.edu) in upstate New York is a good example of this method, offering credit and non-credit
courses in photovoltaic training through its Electrical Construction and Maintenance Department.
Likewise, Lane Community College ( lanecc.edu)
in Eugene, Ore., offers solar thermal and solar electric system installation courses as part of its Energy
Management Program, leading to a two-year associate of applied science degree.
lead the student on the path to jobs in installation, sales, policy and other areas. But entry-level courses do not qualify the student to install.
This is where we’re seeing problems and, in some
cases, misguided marketing. A three- or five-day
course with no prerequisites can hardly deliver
qualified installers at the end of the week. The
student will still need ample in-class and hands-on instruction as well as the jurisdictional licensing requirements required to do the job.
When it comes to advanced classes, more
offerings require certain competencies as a prerequisite. UL University ( uluniversity.com) recently
rolled out a photovoltaic training program that
clearly states that students have to be licensed electricians who have completed 30 hours of OSHA
construction safety. Other schools and organizations require sequential courses — completion
of an entry-level program before enrollment in
an intermediate course, which is required before
taking an advanced class.
Copyright © 2010 by the American Solar Energy Society Inc. All rights reserved.
tailoring offerings to learning needs
Based on our work tracking renewable energy
practitioner training offered around the country, not all courses are created equal in terms
of content and time. On one hand, that makes
sense. There might be an eight-hour continuing
education course on new codes in general but
a 30-hour course specializing in Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
safety requirements. Entry-level courses or
“Solar 101” can range from three-day courses to
semester-long ones. Brian Hurd’s two-part offering at the East Los Angeles Skills Center (elasc.
adultinstruction.org), for example, comprises a
Photovoltaic Introduction 100-hour course followed by a 300-hour hands-on class.
We are often asked how long a course should
be. The simple answer: It depends. It depends on
who is being taught — what competencies and
prerequisites the student brings to the class —
and what kind of job the student will be qualified
to do upon completion. The length and depth of
a course should be enough to provide learners
with exposure to all critical tasks involved in the
job they are being taught to do.
Entry-level training is just that. It can provide a student with baseline knowledge about
renewable energy technologies and information about the next steps toward a job or career
path. An entry-level class with a well-prepared
end-of-course assessment (such as an exam) can
making Sense of
How do you know you or your prospective
employee is being taught the right skills? To
help answer that core question, IREC serves as
the North American licensee for the Institute
for Sustainable Power Quality Standard for
Accreditation and Certification of renewable
energy training programs and instructors (ISPQ,
To assess programs for ISPQ accreditation,
we look at industry-approved job/task analyses
that, through a formal process, determine for
a certain job what people do and what knowledge and skills they must have to do it. IREC
primarily uses the job/task analyses (JTAs)
prepared by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners ( nabcep.org). These
Training continued on page 80
SEP TEMBER/OCTOBER 2010
VOL. 24, NO. 7
Jane Weissman ( email@example.com) has been the execu-
tive director of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council
since 1994. IREC is a nonprofit organization celebrating
its 28th anniversary. The council is the North American
Licensee for the Institute for Sustainable Power Quality
Accreditation of Renewable Energy Training Programs
and the Certification of Trainers.
Jerry Ventre ( firstname.lastname@example.org), former director
of the Photovoltaics and Distributed Generation Division
of the Florida Solar Energy Center, is currently a consultant
in PV systems engineering and workforce development.
to Convene in march
Clean energy instructors, don’t miss the fourth national conference on educating the renewable
energy and energy-efficiency workforce. The Clean Energy Workforce
Education Conference, taking place
March 8-10 in Saratoga, N. Y., brings
together innovative educators who
are training today’s green workforce.
Participants will gain the most current information on instructional
strategies, curricula development,
credentialing and best practices for
training in the renewable energy
and energy-efficiency fields. For
more information, visit irecusa.org.