Difficulty Finding Qualified Applicants Costs Solar Employers Money, Inhibits Growth 

New research finds investments in solar training could save millions in labor costs

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 20, 2017 — Two-thirds of solar installation firms report that difficulty finding qualified applicants is increasing costs and impacting their ability to grow, according to a new research report released today by The Solar Foundation, National Administrator of the Solar Training Network. The report also shows that increased investment in post-hire training could reduce labor costs and save the industry more than $10 million annually.

The research report, Solar Training and Hiring Insights 2017, aims to increase understanding of U.S. solar training, hiring practices, and market trends to help the industry make better, more informed decisions. The report aggregates and analyzes data from several research efforts, including an extensive survey of more than 400 solar installers; in-depth case studies of 10 solar installation firms; interviews with dozens of solar employers, trainers, and workforce development boards; and The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census series.

One key finding is that 65 percent of solar employers reported that difficulty finding qualified workers led to increased costs, while 68 percent said it impacts their ability to grow. And 39 percent said the recruitment costs and opportunity costs of delayed hiring amounted to more than $10,000 on average for each open position.

The report also shows that companies that invest more in post-hire training had lower installation labor costs on average. With continued and expanded investments in training, companies have the potential for increased labor efficiencies and decreased callbacks (i.e. returning to job sites to re-install or correct site errors) that could save the solar industry more than $10 million annually, the report shows.

“With more than 51,000 new solar jobs in the United States in 2016 alone, employers are facing the challenge of hiring qualified candidates to fill open positions,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “Our research finds that making strategic investments in training can help the industry save millions of dollars and ultimately pass the reduced costs on to consumers.”

The report also provides a state-by-state index that helps decision makers predict which states are most likely to experience shortages of qualified solar workers (see map below). These states are the most likely to need additional resources for training and workforce development in the coming years.


Other key findings in the report include:

  • Employers are not seeing enough applicants, with 50 percent of all firms nationally reporting deficient numbers of applicants.
  • Employers are having the most difficult time finding candidates with adequate soft skills, as well as some form of hands-on electrical, roofing, or construction experience.
  • When qualified applicants do join the solar industry as entry-level solar installers, there are staggering opportunities for rapid advancement and pay raises, largely due to the insufficient applicant pool. In an in-depth case study examining several major solar installers, entry-level installers were typically promoted at least once within 6-12 months, and saw an average increase in pay of 45 percent after promotion.

The Solar Training Network, administered by The Solar Foundation and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, connects solar employers, training providers, and job seekers to build a stronger solar workforce. This report can be downloaded through the Solar Training Network’s web portal at SolarTrainingUSA.org.

About the Solar Training Network

The Solar Training Network is a program of The Solar Foundation that is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. This program is designed to help meet the workforce needs of the solar industry through solar training and strategic employment partnerships.

Together, The Solar Foundation and its partners are developing and strengthening connections between solar trainers, job seekers, solar employers, workforce development boards, and other key industry leaders. The other partners of the program include the Solar Energy Industries Association, the American Association of Community Colleges, the National Association of Workforce Boards, the Florida Solar Energy Center International, Solar Energy International, and GRID Alternatives.

About The Solar Foundation

The Solar Foundation® is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate adoption of the world’s most abundant energy source. Through its leadership, research, and capacity building, The Solar Foundation creates transformative solutions to achieve a prosperous future in which solar technology is integrated into all aspects of our lives. The Solar Foundation is considered the premier research organization on the solar labor workforce, employer trends, and the economic impacts of solar. It has provided expert advice to leading organizations such as the National Academies, the Inter-American Development Bank, the U.S. Department of Energy, and others during a time of dynamic industry growth and policy and economic uncertainty. Visit us at TheSolarFoundation.org.

About the SunShot Initiative

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a national effort to drive down the cost of solar electricity and support solar adoption. SunShot aims to make solar energy a low cost electricity source for all Americans through research and development efforts in collaboration with public and private partners. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot.