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The Benefits of Achieving NABCEP Certification

Overall, the benefits of NABCEP certifications are to the industries they serve. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) was founded in 2002 as a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization with the stated goal to develop voluntary national credentialing programs that will promote renewable energy, provide value to practitioners, promote worker safety and skill, and consumer confidence in the industry. But how does certification help your career? Consumers need to be confident of their choices.

Consumers at all levels need to know as much as possible about the products they purchase. However, it’s next to impossible to know all that is necessary to make the best choice, so they depend on third-party grading and rating systems to help make decisions. This works out very well for the consumer if the grading/rating organization is doing the hard work of vetting the products and services provided, like NABCEP.

But it also works out very well for the product/service provider. This is especially true when it comes to certifications held by installation contractors. A certified installer’s high standards and achievements stand out so the consumer can see there is a quality difference with minimal research. NABCEP has done a great job of serving the solar industry by providing this credentialing and certification process and standard. They now offer several levels of credentials and certification.

The entry level NABCEP certification is the Associate Credential; the requirement to sit for this exam is to complete a solar PV course from a NABCEP approved training provider and then pay the registration fee through that provider. Achieving this NABCEP Credential provides the holder with more visibility in the industry to employers and potential customers. The credential holder’s name is placed on the NABCEP web page under NABCEP Associate Directory.

The highest level of certification is the NABCEP Certified PV Installation Professional. The minimum education requirements to sit for the exam are 58 hours of solar training with 40 of those hours being advanced level, solar PV specific, provided by an accredited school. A minimum 10-hour OSHA card is also required. Verifiable experience in PV design or installation is also required to sit for the exam. The value of this certification has many benefits in the solar industry and is often required by entities such as utilities or governments. Many developers will specify and require that the solar contractor must have this level of certification. Showing potential customers that you are a certified solar contractor will give you the advantage over a contractor who is not certified. The certification holder’s name is placed on the NABCEP web page under Certified Locator.

For professional sales people, the achievement is the NABCEP PV Technical Sales Certification. The education requirement varies widely from 0 to 60 hours of solar training depending on the person’s background. However, it would be a good idea to take some training courses to prepare for the exam. The first person a customer meets is usually the sales representative; if the sales person is certified, it provides the customer with confidence and an element of trust, elements that are an essential part of winning an installation contract.

NABCEP now has three Specialist Certifications: PV Installer Specialist, PV Design Specialist and PV Commissioning and Maintenance Specialist. Each of these require 24 hours of advanced training from an accredited school. Verifiable experience in each of these specialist categories is also required to sit for the exam. A minimum 10-hour OSHA card is also required. Each of these certifications is focused on the individual’s specific area of expertise. The greatest value to the individual holding the specialist certification is companies who employee certified specialists gain a level confidence with this individual and it also improves the company image to the potential customer.

Another level of certification is directed to building inspectors. Many of the building inspections are now contracted to professional inspectors. These inspectors are usually certified in as many fields of building construction as possible. The NABCEP Certified PV Inspector certification provides these inspectors with this credential that indicates they possess a sufficient level of knowledge and expertise with PV system inspection requirements. No training or experience is required to sit for this exam. However, it is highly recommended to sufficiently educate yourself prior to registering for the exam; it requires extensive knowledge of the IBC, NEC and PV system design.

Certifications are key to any industry’s growth and success. The solar industry is still young and it cannot afford failures due to poor quality installations. One effective way to guard against these failures is to support industry certifications. NABCEP has done a great job of providing their widely accepted certification program to many from different backgrounds. When you become certified at any level, you enhance your opportunities for personal success, you help raise the standards of the industry and you help provide consumers with the ability to make smart choices.

Solairgen PV specific training programs are NABCEP approved and IREC accredited solar PV training programs, designed in support of industry certification and professional excellence.

Kelly Provence
Solairgen School of Solar Technology
IREC Certified Master PV Trainer
NABCEP Certified PV Installation Professional
NABCEP Certified Technical Sales Professional
Master Electrician

Logo for Certified Master PV Trainer Kelly Provence Solairgen IREC Accredited Training Provider Logo  NABCEP Installer Logo   PV Tech Sales Cert Logo

Jobs in the Solar PV Industry

Image of Solar Installer on Roof of a Virginia HomeThe solar workforce in the U.S. has grown by over 160% since 2010 for a little over 93,000 to well over 250,000. Solar accounts for less than 2% of all electrical energy generation in the U.S. However, the solar industry employs twice as many workers as the coal industry, almost five times as many as nuclear power, and about the same number as the natural gas industry.

The largest sector of jobs is in installation of the PV equipment and systems at 51%. The second largest sector is in manufacturing of equipment and materials at 16%. Project development is third at 14%, sales and distribution is fourth at 12%, and the remaining jobs are in various sectors at 7%.

These figures indicate that the best job opportunities will be in the installation sector and that would be correct. This will require a certain amount of training to make yourself attractive to an employer and the solar industry in general. The most difficult positions for employers to fill are, (1) Sales Professionals, (2) Electricians and (3) Installers. If it is possible to get retrained to fill the roll of one of these professional groups, your prospects for employment are very good.

It may also be possible that your present skill will be attractive to an employer in this industry. Every solar contractor or developer needs workers who possess a variety of skill sets. Aside from developing skills listed in the previous paragraph, here are some job skills that are always be required by some of the personal within each company:

  1. An understanding of IP and computer communication are necessary skills since all solar electronic equipment is now built to communicate within its own network and with the internet.
  2. A proficient understanding of computer programs and the ability to bridge computational and drawing programs with DOE and Google type programs is essential to most solar companies.
  3. Writing and editing skills are always necessary when communication with other people and groups is common; this is an undervalued skill that can can make a big difference in the success of a company.

The best way to get into this industry as an employee or as a contractor is to first look at the skills you now possess and see where you would fit in. The next step is to get enough training with solar sales and design to get you started and continue training as you move up the ladder to success.

Kelly Provence
IREC Certified Master PV Trainer
NABCEP Certified Professional PV Installer
Master Electrician

Solairgen School of Solar Training

Solar Training Education and Learning Text

Training for Changes in the Solar PV Industry

Why We Keep Up with Industry Changes

There is no argument that the only constant in the world seems to be change. This is even truer for the solar industry as changes in the solar market happen fast. The only constant appears to be the solar resource itself, our sun.

Training courses must be updated regularly to meet those industry changes and to prepare students who are either just entering the solar business or professionals who are currently working in it. Solairgen is constantly editing its courses for these changes. When necessary, we’ve been known to completely rewrite courses to address industry changes due to product innovations, code changes, regulated utility interconnection requirements, and rapid industry growth.

Here are the most recent changes to our training curriculum:

PV301 NABCEP Associate Installer Credential Exam Prep:
Recently we added a NABCEP Associate Credential exam prep course to follow our PV201 Introduction to PV Design and Installation online course.  PV301 is free to our PV201 students and costs just $185 for anyone who has not taken PV201, but has met the training prerequisite to sit for the Associate Credential exam but needs exam prep study material.

PV202 Solar PV Technical Design
Our online PV202 course now focuses on the technical design aspects of residential, commercial and energy storage systems. It is the next step for designers and installers after completing PV201.

PV210 PV Sales and Cost Analysis
We have introduced a new course, PV210 PV Sales and Cost Analysis that focuses on training students to focus on the marketing aspects of solar: identifying the solar customer and their energy needs, system costs and financing methods, the value of the investment, environmental impacts and proposal writing.

PV221 – PV224 Advanced Online Series
The advanced training workshop and advanced online series have been updated to address new solar products and changes to the NEC codes. These courses include PV221 PV System and the NEC, PV222 Interactive PV System Configuration, PV223 PV Maintenance and Troubleshooting and PV224 Energy Storage PV System Configuration.

Solar is growing faster than any other energy industry so change means growth, and we believe you will enjoy being a part of it. The changes happening today are exciting innovations that make the solar industry stronger and our training produces strong professionals in the field.

Kelly Provence
IREC Certified Master PV Trainer
Solairgen School of Solar Training

ManInstalling6A

Solar Careers in a Galaxy Near You

There is no telling how many solar jobs there are in this galaxy given the probable billions of solar systems within it, but we do know that there are quite a few in this small sector. If you are thinking that you would like to build a career in the solar industry, it is an industry with an impressive growth rate and lots of room. If you’re trying to make a decision to shift your goals toward building a career in the solar industry, it is necessary to see the whole picture.

There are three steps in gathering necessary information to see this picture clearly enough to make the right decision and pick the solar career path that fits you best.

  1. Assessing the types of jobs available and the number of these jobs in the industry is step one. Here are some information resources to help you do that:
    • The Solar Energy Industry Association SEIA provides the National Solar Database on their website. This database is a Google map of the U.S. that allows the user to find manufacturers, installers and others serving the solar industry.
    • The Solar Foundation (TSF). TSF publishes an annual Solar Jobs Census report.
    • The Department of Energy DOE maintains a Solar Career Map on their website. Most of the U.S. jobs in the solar industry are directly connected to system design, installation and sales, however, there are many jobs created by the solar industry that have an indirect connection.
  2. Preparing yourself for a new career or even a slight shift from your present career requires a clear understanding of the job qualifications you’ll need. Studying the industry as a whole is easy since there is so much available news on it. In order to focus on the area that suits your experience, aptitude and work desire, a knowledge of education, training and skill requirements is necessary. Most employers want to verify your ability to perform the job prior to hiring you. If you are in accounting or finance and plan to incorporate solar into your present business model, the learning curve is not so steep. If you are in sales, construction or manufacturing, the learning curve is steep enough to require specialized training. The solar industry has developed organizations to help workers, employers, state and federal agencies and consumers make wise decisions regarding experience and solar training.
    • The Interstate Renewable Energy Council IREC sets standards for accredited training schools and trainers. Workers and employers can use their accredited training database to find quality schools and trainers.
    • The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners NABCEP provides the opportunity for solar installation professionals and solar sales professionals to become certified. These certifications are difficult to get, but sets the certificants apart from others. The standards are high so that employers and consumers can make good choices.
  3. Finding the job is one of the most stressful steps in the process but it is easier than it seems if done with an effective method. Follow these steps and you will meet the people who will be doing the hiring.
    • The National Solar Database is a great place to start; it will show you most of the companies who are established in the solar employment sector.
    • The American Solar Energy Society ASES has chapters throughout the U.S. The chapters are supported through the membership of solar companies and other interested parties and groups. Join your local chapter and take time to go to the open meetings. This is the best networking opportunity you will find.
    • Another form of networking is getting to know people who know the potential employers. Most people meet these contacts while taking training; the trainers know the employers and the employers trust the trainers. There is no better first connection with the industry players than in a training class. The linked chart shows the most common recruitment methods used by employers.

Changing or building a career takes time and it should not be rushed. Take time to get as much training as possible. There is a lot of free solar training on various industry web sites to help you get started, but if you want to be taken seriously, it will be necessary to take IREC accredited courses from a certified school. Make the change at a pace that will ensure success – fast enough to get you there but not so fast that it burns you out. Time is on your side because solar jobs in this small sector of the galaxy are growing.

Kelly Owen Provence
IREC/ISPQ Certified Master Trainer
Solairgen School of Solar Technology

Solairgen-Installationa

Solar PV Training and Employment

Solar PV Training and Employment

It would seem logical to assume that since the Solar PV industry is growing at such a robust pace, there should be plenty of jobs available. That is a correct assumption, but there is a gap between the need for workers and the need for a well-trained work force. The old adage is; you need experience to get a job, but you can’t get experience without a job.

Fortunately, almost all prospective PV employers understand that in this industry, the training comes first, and it’s usually enough to get you started.

There is one sure way to bridge the gap between experience and employment: training and networking.

The first step is to get training from a recognized and competent solar training company. Be sure that it is an accredited solar training program that will be recognized throughout the country. The second step is to get experience, and there is more than one way to get it.

  1. Find out where the solar PV contractors gather; associations are the best place to look. The American Solar Energy Society has state chapters all across the country, and most have regular meetings every month or two. It is very affordable to join an association, and the meetings are a perfect place to get to know the solar contractors and business leaders. Take the time to get your foot in the door and be willing to be time-flexible when someone approaches you about working together – because someone probably will.
  2. If you are already in the construction industry, it is a short segue into the PV industry with proper training, and you can expand your business quickly, and with relatively little financial investment.
  3. Start your own company.  Starting any business is easier said than done, but many people do it quite successfully. If you have an entrepreneur’s spirit and the determination to get a company rolling, this is a good choice. Check the laws in your state to determine if you need to have licensing prior to installing PV systems.
  4. The “hybrid” start.  Many people intend to start their own installation companies, but want an installation or two under their belts before doing so. Working with an existing company on a project-by-project basis can help you get a little experience before you go out on your own.
  5. Install a system on your own house (or a relative’s).  You will learn just as much about installation, and you have your own PV system and some experience at the end of it.

One of the best ways to become valuable for a long-term career is to attain an industry certification. NABCEP has several certification programs; Solar PV Certified Installer, Solar Thermal Certified Installer, and Technical Sales Certification. Each of these certifications requires experience that can be obtained by either working as a self-employed, or working for a solar contractor.  Familiarize yourself with NABCEP at www.nabcep.org.

You can’t get NABCEP Certification without meeting their criteria, and no training company can certify you. The industry leaders know this, and are willing to help you on your path to Certification. After all, with a few exceptions, they pretty much had to get their certification the same way you will. They can work with you on a “project-by-project” basis, or hire you full-time or part-time.  Each company is different, but almost all are dedicated to the industry, have high standards, and are willing to help new installers learn.

Beware of training organizations who sell up their “Job Programs” or placement assistance. It sounds great to you before you pay your training tuition, but it’s mostly talk with very few programs actually putting people to work in the solar industry. If you find work through them, it will usually be an unpaid position as an apprentice. Don’t be sucked in to “We help you find a job.” Training companies can point you in the right direction and have contacts in the industry, but they aren’t job placement organizations.

The truth is that it takes time and dedication to retrain yourself into any industry where you are readily employable. If you want in the solar industry then be persistent and you’ll get in. Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Important links for more information:

www.nabcep.org
North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (to determine eligibility requirements for NABCEP Certification)

www.irecusa.org
Interstate Renewable Energy Council (to verify accredited training programs)

www.ases.org
American Solar Energy Society (to find a chapter to join nearest you)

 

Kelly Provence
IREC/ISPQ Certified Master PV Trainer
Solairgen
www.solairgen.com
706-867-0678