Staffing Priorities in the Red-Hot Solar Power Industry

The US 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%. 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, which is a potential roadblock for employers who want to keep up the momentum. Consider this statistic: In 2018, 85% of construction employers engaged in the solar industry (which employ the majority of the solar workforce), reported that hiring was either somewhat difficult or very difficult.In-demand positions include:

  • Solar panel installers
  • Foremen
  • Heavy equipment operators
  • QA/QC specialists
  • Health & safety managers and coordinators
  • Craft labor

The industry is casting a wide net to fill these crucial positions. Farmers represent a fertile recruiting ground for solar panel installation jobs — they’re hard workers who enjoy being outside and they get the job done. They’re also looking to the construction industry.

Solar Electric Power Generation (employment by industry)

Valuing “road warriors”

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. Having deep connections and solid relationships in this industry can help solve staffing challenges.

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% without any distractions.

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Working closely together

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 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.

Health and safety first

Having someone on-site also helps address the most important consideration on a solar installation project — 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.

Growth in the solar power industry is a certainty, and so is the need to maximize your strategies to recruit, retain and manage employees on solar installation projects. By targeting promising labor pools, redeploying current workers to new projects and prioritizing issue resolution and safety on the jobsite, employers can make the most of their solar construction workforce.

Brian Rentch

Brian Rentch
Brian Rentch is an Aerotek strategic account executive who specializes in the renewable energy industry.

Brian Rentch

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