What I have learned about solar training

Fri, 2011-06-03 14:54

My name is Teal, and I started an internship at Everblue Training Institute a couple weeks ago. As an intern, I am expected to do a little bit of everything. I have worked with Layla and Lesley on BPI, Steve and Bana on phones, Mike and Jamie on Moodle, Cadi on venue-booking, and finally Vince on solar. I was given many tasks but the latest one from Vince seemed to consume me the most. He asked if I would do a complete newcomer analysis on the state of solar training & certifications. What would a new comer to the field find about solar training and what questions would they struggle to answer? I turned in my report last week and am now following it up with this blog post. With it, I hope to pass on some of what I learned on the subject of solar training to you, a potential student.

A simple Google search for “solar” produced an overwhelming amount of options. At the top of the list was Everblue. From there on down, it was a long list of companies and their corresponding acronyms. There’s SEI, STI, FSEC, NST (LLC), NCSC, MREA, and more. My criteria for comparing and contrasting all of the information was: My first impressions, the organizations’ mission statement, and my overall assessment of the quality of the information. Instead of picking on certain companies, I will explain to you the criteria I developed to discern the good from the bad.

In terms of credentials, I discovered that at the very least there should be a relationship with a certifying body such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). This organization is widely recognized as the industry standard in solar training accreditations. While most adhere to this standard, do not accept a certificate’s merit unless you understand the standards behind it. If not NABCEP, then the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), the Industry Training Credit Approval Process (ITCAP), or the Institute of Sustainable Power Quality (ISPQ) can qualify credit achievements. These organizations specialize in maintaining a standard by which educational institutions agree on as acceptable and worthy of actual credit.

Another attribute I pay attention to is a company’s partners and major client list. Personally, I like when a company—especially those claiming national reach—has worked with another company that I have heard of. It gives me confidence in a company when I can see that it has been endorsed by another successful company. Take a moment to look over Everblue's impressive client list.

On another front, ask yourself what it is a company is trying to sell. If it is anything beyond objective solar training, a red flag should go up. For example, a few of them are actually solar manufacturers. This means their agenda is training you on their product specifically. This, in effect, limits your ability to move laterally in the industry. True teaching has to be done from an objective standpoint, allowing the student to develop an awareness of the array of products and techniques that exist.

Now let us apply some of this critical thinking to pricing structures. Be aware of exam and supply fees, travel packages, underpriced introductory classes, and overpriced introductory classes. Introduction to solar classes are great at priming the student for a career in solar. However, some are cheaper, abbreviated versions that function as bait. They only prep you for a credit-generating class. If you are serious about solar, just jump in to the intro class that earns you a certification right off the bat.

Look for companies that partner with governments. Often times your local city, state and/or federal government will pay for your solar training if you are unemployed. Additionally, if you are a veteran, look for the companies that offer discounts to you.

Another way that companies can afford to lower their price is by being centrally located. By doing this, they transfer the travel costs to the student. Unfortunately, the student often times has to travel more than once to get to the level of accreditation that they seek. One of the perks of working with a company that offers classes nationally is that the class can come to you, eliminating your travel costs. Certain companies have taken measures to compensate for this, and/or a student’s time restraints, by offering online training.

Online webinars reduce overhead for companies. This enables them to pass on savings and convenience to you. Webinars are a relatively new feature for solar training. Everblue prides itself on being an innovator in this field. Interactive live online webinars take place once a week for 5 weeks, allowing the student to attend class without interrupting their busy schedules. You can chat in real time with other students and the instructor as you would in a live classroom. Also, the instructor can stream an image of himself or herself actually illustrating an idea on a virtual chalkboard. If you cannot attend the live webinar, you can always access the on demand classes in order to keep up. In my opinion, the development of this technology has been one of the better products to come from the internet.

In conclusion, I have to say there is no substitute for doing thorough research. I touched on a lot of factors that should influence your decision regarding solar training. Use them as a tool if you like. Check reviews online. I would even suggest calling companies and talking to whoever answers the phone. Good luck to you and please feel free to comment or leave questions below.

Call us today at 800-460-2575 or visit our solar training page to learn more!

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