First Solar Apprenticeship Program in Virginia to be Subject of Film Debut at Virginia Clean Energy Summit

Video Highlights Partnership to Transition Southwest Virginia from Coal to Clean Energy Jobs

Secure Solar Futures will present a short film about the company’s innovative workforce development program at the Virginia Clean Energy Summit in Richmond, Va. on October 21, 2022. The five-minute-long video highlights the company’s work to train high school students as solar installers in the coalfield region of Southwest Virginia.

Entitled “Developing A Sustainable Solar Workforce: A Community-Based Demand-Pull Partnership Model,” the film tells the story of the first program offered in the state of Virginia to train apprentice solar installers.

Through a partnership with local high schools and the Virginia Community College System, during the summer of 2022, ten apprentices from Lee and Wise Counties received classroom instruction and gained supervised practical experience installing solar panels on their own schools.

Students were paid $17 per hour to participate. In contrast to other programs that provide exclusively job training, under the program’s “demand-pull” approach, qualified graduates were offered immediate employment as solar installers locally, without having to leave the region.

“We didn’t want to helicopter in a bunch of installers and have them helicopter out and leave no value in the community in terms of long-term jobs,” said Secure Solar Futures President Anthony Smith in the film. “So, we reached out and entered into an amazing partnership with Mountain Empire Community College.”

The film includes comments from MECC President Dr. Kris Westover, Former Wise County Schools Superintendent Dr. Greg Mullins, and apprentice program graduate Mason Taylor.

At the Clean Energy Summit, Cyndi Finley, Director of Workforce Programs and Partnerships for the Virginia Community College System, will screen the film as part of a panel entitled “Energizing the Force: How Partnerships, Education, and Outreach Can Power a More Diverse Clean Energy Workforce.” The session will take place on Friday, October 21, 2022, at 2:00 pm. See the conference agenda here.

View the film online:

In addition to the Virginia Community College System, Mountain Empire Community College,  and public schools in both Wise County and Lee County, Virginia, partnership members and supporters included GOT Electric, the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia, Appalachian Voices, Hartz Group, Inc., Intuit, Inc., the Solar Finance Fund, the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and the Rapha Foundation.

Written by: Erik Curren