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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced New York will participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Ready Vets training program, which will provide military personnel stationed at Fort Drum, NY with technical skills to obtain jobs in the growing solar industry after they transition from active service. This is the first Solar Ready Vets training cohort in New York, and just the eighth offered at military installations in the U.S. The inaugural New York-based class under the program began on January 11.Solar-Ready-Vets-map-rotator

“Soldiers and veterans have the experience and know-how to get the job done,” Governor Cuomo said. “The dramatic growth of solar in New York is creating a demand for highly skilled workers. Offering these heroes valuable training and the technical skills needed to work in this rapidly growing industry, not only helps veterans succeed post service, but helps all of us create a more sustainable future.”

In September 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy launched the Solar Ready Vets program to prepare veterans for post-military careers as solar installers, sales representatives, system inspectors or other solar-related occupations. The program is aligned with the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge initiative, which allows military personnel to obtain job training up to six months prior to their separation from military service.

The Fort Drum program was created through collaboration among the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, U.S. Department of Energy, Fort Drum, SUNY Canton and solar installation companies. Instructors from SUNY Canton will teach five-week classes focusing on technical training in solar skills, including hands-on labs. In addition, the program will facilitate job placement with New York solar PV companies for the trained transitioning military personnel. Nearly 3,600 service members transition from Fort Drum each year, and this new program will be available to assist them in their transition to civilian life.

NYSERDA provided support for the program startup costs, including curriculum development and training for the first 125 veterans to participate through five cohorts of 25. There is no cost for Fort Drum personnel to participate in these first cohorts. Service members may use GI Bill benefits to cover the cost of training after this.

According to the Solar Foundation’s Solar Job Census 2014, the solar industry is adding jobs at a rate of more than 20 times faster than the overall economy. Solar employment in New York State grew more than 40 percent in 2014, adding nearly 2,100 jobs. There currently are 359 solar companies in the State, employing more than 7,000 New Yorkers.

In June, Governor Cuomo announced that from 2011 to 2014, solar grew by more than 300 percent in New York, twice the national average. The significant increase reflects the mission of Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision strategy – which includes the $1 billion NY-Sun Initiative – to build a clean, resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers. In the first two years of NY-Sun, a total of 316 megawatts (MW) of solar electric was installed or is under contract, more than the amount installed in the entire prior decade.

Senator Charles E. Schumer said, “The Solar Ready Vets program will be a win-win for New York providing veterans with much-needed job training while supplying our expanding Upstate solar industry with the top-notch workforce needed to thrive. Our veterans bravely serve our country and it is our duty to provide them with the skills they need to transition into good-paying jobs upon their return home. These jobs will not only equip our vets for working in the green energy economy of the future, but also advance our solar companies as they build this clean energy industry and contribute to the regional economy for years to come.”

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik said, “We must do more to ensure that those who defend our country have jobs after their service ends. I commend Governor Cuomo for prioritizing this important program for Fort Drum soldiers. Participating in this program will help our North Country heroes get important jobs while also helping a vital renewable energy program – a win-win for our community.”

Senator Patty Ritchie said, “Our troops and families stationed at Fort Drum make tremendous sacrifices in the name of protecting our freedom and that’s why it’s so critical that we are there to support them when they transition from active service to their future careers. New York’s participation in the Solar Ready Vets training program not only does that, but also taps into the expertise of SUNY Canton educators and shines a spotlight on the importance of clean, renewable energy.”

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell said, “This initiative is an exciting opportunity that will give soldiers the skills they need to grow their careers while expanding New York’s clean energy industry. A large number of soldiers retire from Fort Drum and stay in the North County. It is important for our state, and in particular the North Country, to invest in the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces who are preparing for careers outside of the military.”

Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush said, “The Solar Ready Vets program is an excellent way to provide opportunities to our veterans while also supporting the ever-growing solar industry. This critical program will equip our military personnel with specific skills so that they can make a smooth transition into today’s job market after active service. I am excited to see this program get underway and will continue to work to enact measures that support our veterans and provide them with more opportunities.”

Richard Kauffman, New York State Chairman of Energy and Finance: “Under Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy, solar is growing fast across the state, accelerating the demand for skilled energy professionals to enter the industry. The Solar Ready Vets program at Fort Drum is a great way to provide technical training to military personnel so they can be part of the solar workforce and play an important role in helping New York achieve its 50 percent of electricity to come from renewables target by 2030.”

John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA, said, “The continued growth of clean, renewable energy in New York is creating greater demand for skilled employees in the solar industry, and this program will help veterans fill those slots. This important program advances Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy by supporting clean energy jobs and accelerating the solar industry in New York State.”

SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran said, “The Solar Ready Vets program is a perfect extension of what SUNY Canton does best. Through this program, we actively continue our commitment to veterans and their families in addition to focusing on environmental sustainability and renewable energy technologies. Most importantly, it demonstrates our commitment to providing career ready training in our academic programs and through our Career Ready Education and Success Training (CREST) Center for Workforce Development. We thank Governor Cuomo, the U.S. Department of Energy, CREST Center staff and all parties involved for implementing this important program.”

Colonel Bryan J. Laske, Fort Drum Garrison Commander said, “Military servicemen and women based at Fort Drum have demonstrated key skills for success in fast paced, technical environments all over the world. As Soldiers transition to future careers, the Solar Ready Vets program enhances our capacity to build on existing skill sets and provide more specific training to better enable a smooth entry into the current job market. We are pleased to work with state and federal partners to initiate this program at Fort Drum and appreciate the additional opportunities it provides our military personnel.”

Eric J. Hesse, Director, New York State Division of Veterans Affairs, said, “New York’s participation in the Solar Ready Vets training program is yet another example of Governor Cuomo’s continued efforts to provide opportunities for veterans. Veterans have the skills and abilities to prosper in New York’s growing solar industry, and as one of only eight States participating in this program, they will have the opportunity to be part of New York’s renewable energy future.”

Sources: New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) http://www.nyserda.gov, New York State Division of Veterans Affairs, www.veterans.ny.gov, The New York State Department of Labor labor.ny.gov/vets, Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) www.ny.gov/REV4NY