By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, April 3, 2015 – As the solar industry continues to create new jobs and spur the economy, President Barack Obama announced today at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, significant strides to prime separating service members for entry into the workforce.
Obama reported an overall goal to train 75,000 workers for the renewable energy industry by 2020. “As part of this, we’re creating what we’re calling a ‘Solar Ready Vets’ program,” he said, “… modeled after some successful pilot initiatives … established over the last several years.”
Hill is one of 10 military installations slated to participate, he noted. Solar Ready Vets, the president said, is “one of the many steps we’re taking to help nearly 700,000 [service members,] veterans and military spouses get a job.”
“As part of this effort, we’re also going to work with states to enable more veterans to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill for solar job training,” he said.
That educational funding would enable more veterans to participate in the job-driven training program. The solar industry, Obama said, offers “good-paying jobs.” He added, “Today what we're going to try to do is to build on the progress that’s already been made.”
Training Initiatives Expanding
Solar Ready Vets is underway at Camp Pendleton, California, Fort Carson, Colorado, and Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, all of which announced pilot initiatives earlier this year.
The Energy and Defense departments are joining efforts in the Solar Ready Vets initiative, DoD officials said. DoE’s “SunShot” Solar Instructor Training Network will leverage DoD’s Skillbridge, a program that allows service members to participate in job training -- including apprenticeships and internships -- beginning up to six months before they leave the military.
Under the program, service members will learn how to size and install solar panels, connect electricity to the grid, and interpret and comply with local building codes. According to White House officials, the accelerated training will prepare troops for careers as installers, sales representatives, system inspectors and other solar-related occupations.
National Security Includes Economic Security
“One of the most important aspects of national security is strong economic security,” Obama said. “We can’t maintain the best military that the world has ever known unless we also have an economy that’s humming.”
The president related the importance of private-sector and government collaboration to grow the nation’s economy by rebuilding infrastructure nationwide, and investing in education and job training to boost growth in the United States and create the Force of the Future.
Employers Eyeing More Veterans
The president noted that the solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy, making it a promising prospect for veterans. “Employers are starting to catch on if you really want to get the job done, hire a veteran,” Obama said.
Hill, Obama said, leads by example in energy innovation, with the base getting 20 percent of its overall energy through renewable energy sources and contributing to overall DoD efforts to save and redirect funds to training, personnel and equipment.
“What is true for DoD has to be true for the entire country,” the president said. U.S. energy is “going to provide enormous prospects for jobs and careers for a whole lot of folks out there if we continue to make this investment,” he added.
Unprecedented Private-sector Job Opportunities
Obama noted that businesses created 129,000 new jobs in March, totaling some 3 million jobs over the past year and more than 12 million new jobs over the past five years. That trend, he said, is the longest stretch of private-sector job creation on record.
Still, Obama asserted, the nation must be relentless in pursuing a strong economy and connecting qualified people to good jobs.
A Personal Message to Hill Air Force Base
The president also delivered a personal message to Hill Air Force Base airmen and civilians.
“Every single day, your work keeps our Air Force ready to meet the many threats that are out there, threats like [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant],” the president said. “You support our troops, our humanitarian missions around the world, and you keep the American people safe.”