Solar InstallerOur inability to provide enough skilled labor presents real and serious challenges to our ability to meet America’s energy demands over the coming decades.

In recent years there has been a growing and increasingly vast shortage of skilled labor in the energy industry at every professional level, from technical specialists and operators to leaders and senior management. A Deloitte Survey from a few years ago put this in stark perspective with 70% of respondents from throughout the U.S. energy industry answering that given the current labor force, they would not be able to meet their future staffing needs. In addition, the energy workforce is old and will be disproportionately affected by the 34,000,000 job openings created by baby boomers retiring this decade.

Against this backdrop the energy industry is undergoing enormous changes as we begin our move away from a fossil fuel-only economy. Old skills become obsolete as new technology accelerates, changing how we source and use energy, while demand for new skills explodes. These new jobs range from skilled labor for manufacturing and installation, through specialized computer skills all the way through senior management. During 2014 the solar industry created jobs 20 times faster than the overall economy and labor shortages were a consistent struggle in the boom times of shale oil production.

There are a few university and industry funded trade school programs and volunteer organizations like the Clean Energy Leadership Institute which are a tremendous resource in this effort to meet our energy talent needs – but these programs simply do not have the funding necessary to train nearly enough people to meet the industry’s needs.