SEI expands programs

solar job trainingSolar Energy International is stepping up its training and development presence nationally.

The organization, based in Carbondale, Colo., Has provided training and educational resources to solar professionals since the early 1970s. But its audience is growing and so are its offerings.

This month, SEI announced three new projects. The first is a new advanced lab training for experienced solar professionals looking to take the next step, fine-tune their skills and get practical answers about better ways to solve problems they regularly face in the field.

The second is a 490-page updated solar industry textbook, and the third is full certification program for people interested in getting into the solar industry. Kathy Swartz, SEI interim executive director, said she was just at the Intersolar conference in San Francisco and installers were very excited about the organizations new intensive four-day advanced lab training.

“This is also one our instructors are drooling over,” Swartz said. “There’s nothing else like this in the industry right now.” While it’s important to provide training to people entering the field for the first time, this will be the first continuing education program of its kind, Swartz said.

SEI will start with two sections. If it proves more popular than that, she said SEI can add more classes. The organization will also release its second textbook next month. It developed its first solar industry textbook in 2004. It sold 76,000 copies. It was a good text, Swartz said. But it hasn’t been updated since then.

“This is really designed for where the solar industry is today,” she said. It’s full color and includes sections on financing and on battery technology. SEI uses the text books in its own educational programs. But as other bodies and community colleges are introducing solar programs, Swartz said the textbooks might have an even broader appeal.

SEI has also introduced a solar professional certification program. While the organization has long trained solar professionals, this certification program offers something more official. The program offers practical, hands-on and technical training that’s directly applicable to available solar jobs. There three paths for certification – grid-tied solar, battery-based installations and developing world applications, Swartz said.

The programs emerged from a project with the Colorado Department of Labor in which the organization trained unemployed people in solar trades. “We had so much success with job placement, we thought we should take it national,” she said.