Alternative energy is the future. Despite what the current political environment proposes today, it has been proven that alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, and others are seeing a growth in job opportunities that trumps the current fossil fuel market. In addition with recent natural disasters further supporting the argument for climate change, a cheaper energy alternative, like solar, is increasingly necessary. That is why today, I want to discuss the solar industry and focus on the job opportunities for a diversifying America.
To start, according to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census for 2016, there are “more than 260,000 solar workers across the country….Of the 51,000 jobs added last year, women made up half.” This every increasing female representation bodes well for the newer industry moving forward. There are some negatives however. Today, women “make up only 28 percent of the total solar workforce. People of color are also underrepresented. Today, 17 percent of U.S. solar workers are Hispanic or Latino, 7 percent are African-American, 9 percent are Asian, and American Indian or Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian each account for less than 1 percent.” While these numbers are low, they are much better than other STEM industries such as technology. For a quick comparison, “women and people of color currently make up 47 percent and 34 percent of the broader American labor force, respectively.”
To track and promote diversity within the solar industry, the Solar Foundation created the new Solar Industry Diversity Study. “The first-of-its-kind study, released at SPI, examines current trends, best practices and recommendations related to fostering a more equitable solar workforce.” The overall sentiment is that women and minorities earn less than their white male counterparts, and are not promoted as frequently. This, unfortunately, is not uncommon to the solar industry, however it is important to note early within the existence of the industry.
Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Smart Electric Power Alliance, encouraged industry leaders to take an active role in making their companies more inclusive. The Solar Foundation report includes several recommendations, such as crafting a clear company statement on why diversity is important, workforce tracking and measurement, and networking opportunities for all employees.
There are many benefits to a diverse workforce especially in today’s demographic age. Hopefully the solar industry can continues its positive trajectory in recent times.