SEI is scaling the organization on several fronts to give people more access to hands on, more classes online, and more services for employers to help bridge the gap between training and employment.

Solar Training Courses for 2022

Q&A with Elizabeth Sanderson, Executive Director | Solar Power International (SEI)

Tell us about yourself and your role with Solar Energy International (SEI).

I’m the Executive Director at Solar Power International (SEI)

I joined Solar Energy International (SEI) with a history of leadership and experience that we are leveraging to scale our mission of expanding a diverse, well-trained solar workforce with the aim of mitigating climate change, promoting sustainable economic growth and supporting energy independence. With credentials including COO and Director of Development of The Hunger Project (a nonprofit with a mission of ending world hunger), President of an advertising agency that managed several worldwide brands, and Chief Marketing Officer of Sunflare (a solar start-up), I’m expanding SEI while staying true to our key differentiators of quality education and a friendly community culture. I also bring a passion for building organizations focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

 

What makes SEI different from other training organizations?

SEI was created 30 years ago by teachers who wanted to spread knowledge about solar.  At that point, it was solar thermal (for instance, sun directly warming water tanks) vs photovoltaics. 

Since our early days, there have been many new developments in solar including a myriad of battery types, new design technology including solar design software using drone technology and 3D modeling tools, EV chargers for electric vehicles, smart electrical panels that allow homeowners to manage their energy usage by an app, and several new financial tools that allow people to pay for solar in different ways. SEI courses and continuing education focus on many of these developments encouraging people who want to start a solar career and those who are in solar and want to upskill to go farther to enhance their career.

 

What solar segments does SEI train in?

SEI trains on the fundamentals of the overall industry and focuses mostly on Residential and Commercial. We train in Storage, Operations and Maintenance, Design, Installation and Solar Business and Technical Sales. We train in the US, the Middle East and Central and South American.
 

How big will the workforce need to be to handle the growth of solar?

SEIA, reports that the solar industry needs 4X the workforce to meet President Biden’s clean energy goal of “a carbon pollution-free power sector” by 2035 we all need to work together.

 

What does the solar industry need to do to find and train the workforce needed to handle this growth? 

We need to meet the potential workforce where they are--both geographically and from an educational standpoint.  Not everyone learns the same way. And not everyone has an academic background. We need give more physical access to hands-on training. We need to make classes shorter and give the more time to accomplish the courses.

We also need to work with employers to train the skills they need for their businesses. Employers need safety and basic knowledge for new employees then they need upskilling in specific functions.

This requires broader out-reach and audience-specific training.

 

What is SEI doing differently to meet the demands of the solar workforce?

SEI is scaling the organization on several fronts to give people more access to hands on, more classes online, and more services for employers to help bridge the gap between training and employment.

 

Why is it important for all solar industry professionals to continue education and training in the industry?

Renewable energy is a fast-growing and the technology is improving daily. Pair that with the ever-changing landscape of NEC codes, and Federal, State and local jurisdictions requirements, and continuing education is extremely important. 

 

Do you have an opinion on the supply chain issues?

The supply chain for polysilicon and lithium used to be owned by the US. Now China is the main supplier of both.  The U.S. let our position go because we bought into lowering the cost by using cheaper Chinese labor. Currently that leaves the US with little or no ownership of the supply chain. And now, given the geopolitical climate, the US is subject to higher prices and less supply. The Chinese have been very focused on dominating the supply chain. It’s time for the US Government and the rest of the Americas to get serious about supply chain investment.

 

Tell us about your partnership with Mayfield Renewables to launch new solar training programs for 2022.

The Mayfield partnership is a good demonstration of cooperation in the industry.  If the solar industry needs 4X the workforce to meet President Biden’s clean energy goal of “a carbon pollution-free power sector” by 2035 we all need to work together. We all have our strengths, and having the best educators and trainers collaborate will bring jobs faster and reduce climate change faster.

 

 

 

About Elizabeth Sanderson, Executive Director
Elizabeth has impressive history of leadership in both for-profit and non-profits. She brings a passion for SEI’s mission of expanding a diverse, well-trained solar workforce to mitigate climate change, promote sustainable economic growth, and support energy independence. With credentials including COO and Director of Development of The Hunger Project (a nonprofit with a mission of ending world hunger), President of an advertising agency that built several worldwide brands, and Chief Marketing Officer of Sunflare (a solar start-up), Elizabeth is scaling SEI while staying true to the organization’s key differentiators of quality education and an authentic family culture.

 

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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