Solar Ready Vets program readies first class at Hill AFB

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The Solar Ready Vets program announced by President Barack Obama during a visit to Hill Air Force Base in April 2015 will begin training the first class of 24 veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce

The training, which begins Feb. 1, is being provided by Salt Lake Community College in partnership with the Department of Energy, which oversees the initiative. Some of the training will take place in Hill classrooms and some will be online “self-driven” learning. 

“We’ve got to be relentless in our work to grow the economy and create good jobs,” Obama said during his visit. “I think everybody here at Hill understands that one of the most important aspects of national security is strong economic security.”

Hill was chosen to be part of the program based on the number of exiting military personnel from the installation, the strength of the surrounding solar market, and the capacity of nearby training institutions.

The base acquires 20 percent or more of its overall energy from renewable energy sources. The base’s solar array installation was completed in June 2009, making it Utah’s largest ground-mounted photovoltaic system at the time.  

“We take pride in the energy initiatives we have underway here,” said Col. Ron Jolly, 75th Air Base Wing installation commander. 

Obama said the new program is one of many steps to help nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get a job.

Hill is the fourth base to implement the program, which is already underway at Camp Pendleton, California; Fort Carson, Colorado; and Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia; has already delivered 150 military veterans ready to begin careers in the solar energy career field, one of the fastest-growing job sector’s in the country.

Although veterans are not guaranteed a job, the DOE reports that all of the participating veterans have been extended job offers from renewable energy companies participating in the initiative.  Starting salaries for these types of positions average $20 to $24 per hour. The program prepares veterans to be strong candidates for a wide range of solar energy careers, including management, photovoltaic installation, sales and technical positions.

According to the DOE, the Department of Defense is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government. So, to meet new goals set out in an Executive Order signed March 19, for the federal government to reduce emissions, some of the Solar Ready Vets graduates may return to bases, helping build solar arrays that improve energy security.

The program is tied to the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge Initiative, a program designed to equip active-duty military personnel within six months of moving to veteran status with skills to enter the civilian workforce.

“Solar power can be a key element of strategic energy agility for the Air Force, and we see the industry growing rapidly. Solar Ready Vets is a tremendous program providing energy-specific technical training to our veterans, preparing them for high-skill jobs in the renewable energy industry. We are proud to partner with the Energy Department, Veterans Affairs, local colleges and our sister services on this important endeavor, and hope to see Air Force vets working in the solar industry across the country in the near future,” said Miranda Ballentine, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy.

The Energy Department is working with the Department of Defense to expand Solar Ready Vets to a total of 10 military bases by late spring 2016.

“We have eight currently registered, with more Airmen expressing interest every day. Many are currently working through the application process,” said Capt. Joshua Tate, deputy director of the 75th Force Support Squadron.

The classes are paid for by the DOE during the startup phase and funding for continuing classes can be paid for by the members’ GI Bill benefits, Tate said.

Active-duty service members or veterans of any branch located on or near the installation who would like to participate should contact Rebecca Delgado at 801-586-5451 or Tate at 801-777-7333.

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