The U.S. solar power industry continues to heat up, with the number of solar installations recently surpassing 2 million, due in part to increased environmental awareness, tax incentives and a continued decline in construction cost. Employment has kept pace with growth in the industry, adding 100,000 jobs between 2013 and 2018, an increase of 70 percent. This has created challenges for employers who often rely on high-volume recruitment efforts to fulfill their solar projects.
“Solar power is exploding this year,” says Brian Rentch, an Aerotek strategic account executive who specializes in the renewable energy industry. “That’s a potential roadblock for employers who want to keep up the momentum,” he says, pointing to recent statistics: In 2018, 85 percent of construction employers engaged in the solar industry (who employ the majority of the solar workforce), reported that hiring was either somewhat difficult or very difficult. In-demand positions include:
Rentch notes that the industry is casting a wide net to fill these crucial positions. “We’ve had great success with recruiting farmers to fill the solar panel installation jobs. They’re hard workers, they enjoy being outside and they get the job done. Construction workers are also a great resource.”
In recent years the solar power industry has become known as a draw for “road warriors,” workers who travel from worksite to worksite as the jobs appear. They are valued highly for their experience and flexibility. “We recently were able to transition 150 workers from a completed project in Florida up to South Carolina to work on a new installation,” Rentch notes. “Having deep connections and solid relationships in this industry can help solve staffing challenges.”
He also notes that road warriors have a lower rate of attrition than many less-experienced workers, which can help a solar construction company avoid the time and expense of rehiring and retraining. “They know they have another good job lined up when they wrap up their current job, so they’re able to work at 100 percent without any distractions.”
Rentch explains that, as a staffing partner, providing on-site management and administration can go a long way toward mitigating workplace issues. “It helps to have someone there addressing any concerns that arise — like payroll questions or requesting time off — and dealing with them in real time, before they become a disruption. At the same time, it’s valuable to be in such close proximity to the client company as well. The convenience helps keep the lines of communication open. It’s such a simple solution, but it goes a long way.”
Having someone on-site also helps address the most important consideration on a solar installation project, Rentch notes — the health and safety of every person on the jobsite. “It’s everyone’s top priority to uphold the safety plan in order to ensure that the workforce is engaged, satisfied and safe. This helps workers know they’re appreciated and in turn helps the whole industry grow.”
Recruiting, retaining and managing employees on solar installation projects has its challenges, but working with a trusted recruitment partner with industry expertise can help you avoid unnecessary costs and delays. Want to know more? Contact Aerotek now.