Two-thirds of solar installation firms report that difficulty finding qualified applicants is increasing costs and impacting their ability to grow, according to a new research report released by The Solar Foundation, National Administrator of the Solar Training Network. The report also shows that increased investment in post-hire training could reduce labor costs and save the industry more than $10 million annually.
The research report, Solar Training and Hiring Insights 2017, aims to increase understanding of U.S. solar training, hiring practices, and market trends to help the industry make better, more informed decisions. The report aggregates and analyzes data from several research efforts, including an extensive survey of more than 400 solar installers; in-depth case studies of 10 solar installation firms; interviews with dozens of solar employers, trainers, and workforce development boards; and The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census series.
One key finding is that 65 percent of solar employers reported that difficulty finding qualified workers led to increased costs, while 68 percent said it impacts their ability to grow. And 39 percent said the recruitment costs and opportunity costs of delayed hiring amounted to more than $10,000 on average for each open position.
The report also shows that companies that invest more in post-hire training had lower installation labor costs on average. With continued and expanded investments in training, companies have the potential for increased labor efficiencies and decreased callbacks (i.e. returning to job sites to re-install or correct site errors) that could save the solar industry more than $10 million annually, the report shows.
The report also provides a state-by-state index that helps decision makers predict which states are most likely to experience shortages of qualified solar workers (see map below). These states are the most likely to need additional resources for training and workforce development in the coming years.
Other key findings in the report include:
• Employers are not seeing enough applicants, with 50 percent of all firms nationally reporting deficient numbers of applicants.
• Employers are having the most difficult time finding candidates with adequate soft skills, as well as some form of hands-on electrical, roofing, or construction experience.
• When qualified applicants do join the solar industry as entry-level solar installers, there are staggering opportunities for rapid advancement and pay raises, largely due to the insufficient applicant pool. In an in-depth case study examining several major solar installers, entry-level installers were typically promoted at least once within 6-12 months, and saw an average increase in pay of 45 percent after promotion.
— Solar Builder magazine