Moorefield, W.Va. – Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College (Eastern) applied and was granted $157,614 for the Solar Training & On Campus Solar Education Advancement through West Virginia State Advance Grant. The program’s main goal is to provide affordable and accessible education of solar technology to the Potomac Highlands region of West Virginia. This will allow easier access to completing the Photovoltaic Installer–Level 1 (PVI1) Certification, which will help both industrial and agricultural workers from the increased usage of solar technology in these fields. Initiation of the solar education program will be on July 1, 2023, and will run through until June 30, 2025.
Jay Warmke, Founder of Blue Rock Station in Philo, Ohio, will lead the program with plans to train up to 40 individuals to become solar applicator technicians. Individuals will be trained to use a Photovoltaic Installer–Level 1 (PVI1) Certification, which is needed to become a solar applicator technician. Mountain View Solar and Solar Holler, clean energy companies in West Virginia, will also be providing additional support for this program, such as assisting students who complete this program with career pathway development and job placement. Students will be able to connect with Mountain View Solar’s leadership and technical support staff to help students learn about career opportunities. Along with this, there will be in-person technician visits which will give students a chance to talk with them about this career path. Both companies are willing to connect with the community to share information about their company and job opportunities. Students who are a part of this program will benefit from Eastern’s Career Services department as well. Between 2019-2021, there was a 12.1% increase in solar technology jobs, which can also be found in all fifty states in the United States. West Virginia’s solar energy job placement rate grew at 19.6%, higher than the national average. The average wage and benefits upon job placement is similar to other industries, like construction, with an average wage of $18.16 per hour. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for solar installers is $22.92 an hour.
Eastern’s secondary goal with this program is to expand the array of solar technology that the campus is equipped with. The added array of educational technology on-campus will bring added engagement from students from the hands-on learning experience with solar panels, racking, inverters, sensors, displays, charging ports, lighting, and knowledge of the cost savings that utilizing solar energy brings. EnGoPlanet solar benches will be placed throughout the campus for student and community use. These benches will allow an individual to connect to the internet, charge their phone wirelessly and by USB, and connect to Bluetooth.