With a goal of making the solar workforce and solar communities more diverse, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Development Action Coalition (HBCU-CDAC) have begun a new effort to increase recruitment of African-American students into the industry.
SEIA and the HBCU-CDAC, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to begin a comprehensive effort to help the solar industry recruit and employ more students from the nation’s 101 Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This will include hosting a national jobs fair, individual jobs fairs at the HBCU schools and bringing solar companies to campuses for recruitment.
“Diversity and inclusion is one of our highest priorities and, while we’ve made progress, we still have a long way to go to make the solar industry more accurately reflect the diversity of the communities we serve,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Those of us in solar joined this industry because we want to make the world better for all, which is why we’re excited to partner with CDAC, tap into the talent at HBCUs, and bring more of these students into our growing industry.”
As an outcome of the partnership, SEIA and CDAC will work with participating HBCUs to create a database of students pursuing clean energy degrees, or those interested in working in solar, that will be accessible by SEIA companies. Both organizations will work with campus representatives to foster resume exchanges and coordinate interviews among participating companies.
“As a national community economic development intermediary offering programs and activities that target HBCUs and their host communities, we are delighted to partner with SEIA in exposing HBCU students as well as their faculty and staff to opportunities in solar and clean energy,” said Ron Butler, CDAC’s CEO. “With an ultimate goal of community empowerment and economic relevancy, we see diversity and inclusion in this growing industry from all aspects including workforce and enterprise development.”
CDAC’s COO Henry Golatt commented that “clean energy both now and in the foreseeable future is integral to our national economy and security. CDAC’s goal in this regard is to ensure HBCUs are not only at the table but adequately engaged.”
The new recruitment effort is one of SEIA’s many efforts to foster diversity and inclusion. This includes a best practices guide for promoting diversity in the solar workforce, as well as its Women’s Empowerment Initiative, which provides networking, training and other development opportunities. In November, SEIA is hosting its latest summit, in Chicago, to discuss how to increase women’s leadership in the industry.
In addition, Hopper recently joined a group of 450 chief executives committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace, signing the pledge for CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion. The pledge contains three commitments: making the organization’s workplace a trusting place to have complex conversations around diversity and inclusion, implementing unconscious bias education, and sharing best practices and challenges with others.
SEIA’s work on diversity will continue at the industry’s biggest event of the year, Solar Power International (Sept. 24-26). There, the organization is convening 10 separate workshops to encourage diversity, including conversations to bring more capital into underserved communities, how to make solar more accessible to low-income and low-credit Americans, along with sessions focusing on community outreach, multiple women’s networking events and a job fair. Head here for the complete schedule and register for the conference.
— Solar Builder magazine