New Partnerships will Prepare Workers for Highly Skilled Solar Factory Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched a new competition aimed at strengthening the solar manufacturing workforce. The $5 million American-Made Upskill Prize for the Solar Manufacturing Workforce (Upskill Prize), funded by the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) is designed to realize the full potential of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), bolster U.S. competitiveness in the solar supply chain, and create high-quality jobs for U.S. workers.

The American-Made Upskill Prize for the Solar Manufacturing Workforce
The Upskill Prize is a multi-million-dollar competition designed to accelerate the expansion of the U.S. solar manufacturing workforce.

Teams of U.S. solar manufacturers and training organizations such as community colleges or unions will propose plans to upskill current employees or attract and train new employees including through pre-certification programs, specialized equipment training, or recruitment efforts. Winning teams will receive up to $500,000 each in support of their proposals.

“The Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investments in solar energy manufacturing can reinvigorate communities across the country with good-paying, family-sustaining jobs,” said Jeff Marootian, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “With that goal in mind, DOE is launching a first-of-its kind prize focusing on ensuring that our community colleges, labor unions, and other training organizations are fully equipped to prepare workers seeking to enter this emerging field.” 

DOE expects that the solar industry will need to grow from more than 330,000 employees to between 500,000 and 1,500,000 workers by 2035 to achieve the Biden-Harris Administration's decarbonization goals.  Since IRA's passage, over 260 GW of manufacturing capacity has been announced across the solar supply chain, representing nearly 28,000 potential jobs and more than $14 billion in announced investments across 90 new facilities or expansions.

By encouraging partnerships between manufacturers and training organizations, DOE aims to ensure the long-term growth and resilience of a solar manufacturing workforce that can meet the needs of the domestic solar industry, while enabling individuals from low-income and disadvantaged communities to enter the clean energy workforce. Through the prize, DOE aims to train workers in common solar manufacturing jobs including semiconductor processors, manufacturing equipment technicians and operators. The anticipated outcome of the training will be successful trainees working for the local solar manufacturer.

Register for an informational webinar on March 20 at 1 p.m. ET. to learn more about the prize.

The Upskill Prize complements ongoing SETO investments in an inclusive solar workforce, including a $13.5 million funding program comprised of 12 projects focused on launching training partnerships to expand the solar energy workforce. SETO has also been engaging PV manufacturers, education and training providers, labor unions, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders about the challenges and opportunities associated with growing a diverse and skilled solar manufacturing workforce

Interested competitors can apply through May 21. DOE will review submissions and select winners on a rolling basis.

View the official rules and sign up to compete.

Read more about SETO's solar workforce development and PV manufacturing efforts.

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