The solar energy industry “is one of the fastest-growing sectors in renewable energy, employing close to 3.4 million people globally.” Similar to driver-less technology, solar energy has progressed to the point that it is actually more sustainable and ready to use today despite public perception. The road blocks the industry face are more political, but once those issues are solved, we could see a boom from solar related products soon. Yet despite this great news, when it comes to employment diversity, the solar industry falls short.
Energy has always had issues recruiting and hiring diverse applicants. “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the oil and gas extraction industry is 90 percent white, while the utility industry is 85 percent white. And you don’t have to dig deep into the data to see that, like these other energy industries, white men currently dominate the solar industry.” In the US solar industry, African Americans make up 7% of the workforce while women make up just over a quarter.
While a negative on today’s solar market, there are some positives. The Solar Energy Industries Association, for example, “has developed a Diversity Best Practices Guide, providing guidance on broadening recruitment efforts, building a culture of inclusion, and providing opportunities for professional development.” In addition, the NAACP has created a program providing “energy justice education, solar industry job training, and job placement for people previously incarcerated.” Many are looking to help solve the lack of diversity while the industry is in its growing period, but it is still hard to do.
As we know, there are many reports proving that the more diverse a team is the better its results will be, but finding qualified persons in an industry such as solar is still being worked out. More research must be done in the field to adequately recruit diverse individuals, but the industry currently is still better than its oil, gas, and technology counterparts. There is a larger base versus those industries and perhaps this can be used to grow its numbers quicker.