"We're going to make this country safer; we're going to make the planet cleaner," President Obama said in a recent address regarding the White House's new plan to create 75,000 jobs for trained technicians in the growing solar energy industry by the year 2020.
The Obama administration hopes to exploit a steady rise in solar that has occurred over the last decade in the United States, setting a goal to train 75,000 workers to size and install solar photovoltaic panels on residential, commercial and military buildings across the country. With this plan, President Obama intends to address two of the United States' greatest concerns: protecting the environment through alternative energy solutions and encouraging continued growth in the economy by finding original outlets for job creation.
As a third benefit to this new initiative, President Obama announced that a large portion of that 75,000 will consist of active-duty troops returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the Solar Ready Vets Program, the president's administration and other departments hope to utilize the work-based learning strategies and technician skills soldiers develop during their military service in an effort to reduce the staggering number of veterans who fail to find employment when transitioning to civilian life.
Since the first batches of troops began coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the veteran unemployment rate has been a prevalent issue for state and federal government agencies, causing support programs, such as Show Your Stripes and Hire Patriots, to pop up each month.
It's no secret that the foremost intention of this solar proposal is to continue the healing of the United States' economy. More jobs—no matter the industry—mean less unemployment. In fact, the launch of the Solar Ready Vets Program is a supplement to initial plans previously announced in 2014 to hire 50,000 workers in the solar sector.
However, of the total 75,000 workers expected to be trained, an unspecified number will be active-duty troops and unemployed veterans, which demonstrates an effort on behalf of the federal government to both tackle the nation's unemployment issue and make strides to better support returning veterans.
Each of the candidates in the Solar Ready Vets Program will complete a six-week educational program, after which they will be guaranteed an interview with private sector solar firms.
For the more skeptical supporters of the alternative energy revolution, news of this initiative is pleasant to the ear but probably unconvincing overall. We've heard claims to jumpstart the green industries before, most notably during Obama's 2012 presidential campaign, when President Obama promised the creation of 5 million green jobs.
The following year in March 2013, the Labor Department reported that only 3.1 million people nationwide were employed in green jobs, many of which were traditional positions such as lobbyists and garbage men simply reclassified as "green."
This time around, the "green" plan appears to be more fleshed out and its policies better publicized. The Solar Ready Vets Program, a partnership between the Departments of Defense and Energy, has already begun training approximately 200 service members at three military bases, focusing on solar panel installation, electrical system repair and building code regulations.
Here's to hoping for success in the program's first year and continued progress in the solar industry!