GRID Alternatives, the nation’s largest nonprofit solar installer, recently hosted its first Women in Solar intensive training as part of its Women in Solar initiative, a national push, in partnership with SunEdison, to involve more women in all aspects of solar.
Erica Mackie co-founded GRID Alternatives in 2001 with the goal of making solar PV technology accessible and affordable for low-income communities. She immediately noticed the lack of women surrounding her in the industry and became passionate about changing this.
“It was this background that prompted GRID to think about what we can do as an organization to really work to make the solar industry more representative of the population at large,” said Renee Sharp, Bay Area regional director at GRID. According to The Solar Foundation, women represented 24% of the solar workforce in 2015, up 2% from 2014.
GRID’s first women in solar training program brought in a diverse group of 10 women. Some participants had previous knowledge of solar, while others came from entirely different occupational backgrounds. The only requirement, besides being a woman, was the desire to become involved with the solar industry, whether it be as an installer, designer, sales person or volunteer.
During the two week session at GRID’s Bay Area office, participants completed two PV solar installations and attended workshops on community outreach, solar purchasing and site assessment and design to gain a comprehensive view of the solar industry. The women also had access to soft-skills training sessions and networking events to give them an edge in the job market.
GRID received great feedback about the program from those in attendance, said Sharp. The women came away with an understanding of how the solar industry works, as well as the confidence to pursue a career in their desired field.
Seven of the 10 participants received employment after completing the training. Of the three that are not employed, two are working to bring solar to rural communities in other countries, and one is in the process of becoming a GRID Team Leader.
There will be another Women in Solar training session this December, led by GRID’s North Coast office female construction manager, Cora Saxton. GRID also promotes its Women in Solar Initiative through other events, such as all-women builds where it recruits female volunteers to install a solar project. It also has a group of women who lead a philanthropy project called GRID’s We Give Circle, who provided direct funding for the Women in Solar training.
To learn more and get involved in GRID’s solar programs for women visit http://www.gridalternatives.org/programs/women-solar-initiative.