Career Advice, Jobs

How to Transition Into Working in the Solar Industry

With the growing uncertainty when it comes to the sustainability and profitability of fossil fuel production – coal mines, oil rigs, oil companies, gas companies – people are either being laid off or are considering changing careers. The biggest trend? Transitioning into the solar industry.

The solar industry has taken the world by a storm. The price of fossils is exponentially growing, just as the price of solar energy and technologies is in a decline, becoming more affordable by the day. It is the marking of a new generation of power. While the solar industry is plummeting, some other branches of industries are inevitably crumbling. Oil, gas and coal industries have suffered the most through this process. Companies are closing or struggling and people are losing their jobs. Production of fossils has become a liability for the environment and is deteriorating the climate due to its high greenhouse gas emissions, and this is one of the main causes for the advancement of and the transition to renewable, natural energy.

But just as the rise of the solar industry closes certain opportunities and doors, it also opens new, different ones. There are many new job positions available for new and for old workers. For those who have previously worked in the oil or gas industries, there are also different options and ways to transition into this new, growing solar industry. It is a process, and it certainly does take some adjustment, as well as more or less extensive training, but it is possible and very feasible.

Inside The Transitioning Trend

First of all, when it comes to the financial part, there is no exact rule on whether workers will earn more or less money than before, it is even more likely that the pay will be smaller. But the thing is that oil workers, for example, working at oil rigs, are facing more and more uncertainty when it comes to their jobs. They may be working one month, and be out of a job the next month. Working intermittently like that can take a toll on a person, both physically and financially. Therefore, working regularly, full-time, but on a smaller salary, can seem much better.

Some workers are even considering transitioning before they are laid off due to the rather reasonable fear that they could lose their job. They may be settling for a smaller salary, but they are gaining certain job security. Salaries vary depending on the position, experience, level of education and training. Some technical workers, or janitors could even earn more in the corresponding jobs in the solar industry. They would do the same or similar work but at a higher standard, in an industry whose profits are rapidly increasing. Some will have a smaller annual pay, but after the required training and education, that can also change and grow.

Some states and local governments offer programs for training unemployed skilled workers, particularly those from the oil and gas industries, training them in various areas of the solar industry.

increasing their employability and opening new opportunities. Organizations, such as the Solar Energy International, offer different courses, training, retraining and career transition programs that help workers learn, adjust and prepare for the new industry and the new circumstances it has created. Department of Energy and the US Departments of Labor and Education partnered up to create The Solar Instructor Training Network, providing education and training as well as encouraging the development of a solar workforce.

Some companies like Vivant Solar and SolarCity offer training programs for their workers before they get laid off. This helps with the process of transition and prepares them rather early on for the changes that will inevitably happen. The process of finding a new job and entering the new industry is easier this way and significantly shortened. This is, of course, the ideal solution and in ideal circumstances, but unfortunately, not very common or often practiced.   

All in all, transitioning workers have to be prepared for a somewhat difficult period, probably a stiff competition, and they certainly have to be willing to learn, acquire new skills or upgrade their old ones.

It is important to know and understand that many skills that oil and gas workers have are transferable to the solar industry. The job search may be hard and often discouraging or disillusioning, but perseverance is the key. Steps also need to be taken by the recruiters and employers, who have to put aside their preconceptions and recognize the value of a skilled worker.


Matt Reilly is an operations manager and home improvement writer currently working for Reilly Roofing and Gutters in San Antonio. He is a promoter of sustainable living, both on a large scale and through the use of eco-friendly technology in everyday life.

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