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Pilot program in solar energy offers opportunity for transitioning sailors

The future is in solar energy, and Tidewater Community College is helping to realize that future with a new program.

The college has partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy and Navy Region Mid-Atlantic to provide a program that prepares transitioning sailors for potential employment in the solar industry upon discharge.

Solar Ready Vets guarantees sailors will have employment interviews with up to five U.S. solar companies during the training period.

For information about Solar Ready Vets, contact Christopher Blow at the Center for Military & Veterans Education, or 757-822-7725

The inaugural class of 19 sailors began the program on July 6 and will graduate on Aug. 17.

“This is an astounding program,” said Shane Hawkey, part of the first cohort at TCC.

“We’re learning from subject-matter experts nonstop. Without this opportunity, I don’t know where I would go.

“I’m one month from retirement. This is a toolbox to all of us, an opportunity to take care of yourself after you’ve done 19 years-plus of service.

“Now we have a good chance to get a foot in the door.”

The U.S. solar industry employees more than 174,000 professionals nationwide and is expected to hire up to 35,000 additional full-time professionals each year, according to the Department of Energy.

Graduates are prepared for careers as installers, designers, project managers and other technical positions in the solar industry. Program participants complete the North American Board of Certified Industry Professionals Entry Level Certification Exam.

Morgan Halstead, a lieutenant who plans to separate from the Navy after 11 years to earn his MBA at University of California-Davis, said this training will allow him to work in a viable West Coast industry while going to graduate school.

“This fit right into my window,” he said. “That window is pretty narrow for transitioning vets. This is perfect.”

Additional sessions will be offered Aug. 24-Oct. 2 and Oct. 13-Nov. 20.