I get quite a few emails a week for job seekers and I usually try to send more than just a simple “We”re not hiring right now” reply. I love that people want to work in this industry and so I try to give a little advice where I can. One of the groups of people that I hear from occasionally are people interested in being solar panel installers. The following points are a distillation of the advice that I’ve given out. (If you don’t want to be climbing up on rooftops, or don’t want to install solar farms, then this blog post might not be that useful to you.)
Know the Industry:
If you’re job hunting for a solar installer job, there are a few things you should really start with. These might help you figure out where the opportunities are and if you’re lucky, might help you figure out who’s hiring.
- Ontario’s Green Energy Act – Learn everything you can about the act, the Feed-In Tariffs, the job creation programs etc. These programs are specifically being created to encourage green job creation, and the programs have been very explicitly designed to mimic successful programs in Germany, Spain and other regions. The more you understand these programs, the more likely you’ll be able to figure out where the opportunities are and the better you can demonstrate that you’re the right employee for the job. Some links:
- The Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure Green Energy Act Page
- OPA Feed-In Tariff Page – Very important.
- Employment Ontario – Don’t just look for job postings and advice, learn about the different incentives. If you’re a student, make sure you understand coop and summer job incentives for employers. If you’re looking for training or apprentiships, there are incentives there too. Understand them.
- FIT Rates – I’ve covered this in a recent post, and there are some links there to get you started.
- Current Players – Figure out who’s actually doing solar panel installs. If you want to get into home roof top, or solar farm work, figure out who’s already done it. Look up the types of projects that have been done already – they’re the most likely to be expanding as solar installs increase. This is partly research on your part, but the CanSIA member list above, and people who exhibit at Green and Solar shows are a good list. The Toronto Green Living Expo is coming up in a few weeks – figure out who’s going to be exhibiting, sponsoring, and make sure you go. (Hint, don’t take resumes and don’t ask people for jobs at the show, they’re busy and they’ll forget you. Apply before, be friendly and treat the show itself as a networking event.)
- Know the technology – I’m not going to put together a series of links here, but if you want to do rooftop, have an opinion about the major silicon panel manufacturers and thin films, different inverters, mounting schemes etc. Also, look at micro inverters and wiring in parallel to solve shading issues and meters and grid tie issues. Make sure you know the actual stuff you’ll be installing, and have specific knowledge of specific companies.
- Understand the Basics of Solar Resource – Look up insolation, kWh/kw and understand panel efficiency. Don’t just know electrician and roofing stuff (but know that too). If you don’t know the latitude of the town you want to work in, and you can’t figure out the correct tilt for a panel, go learn.
Network, attend and visit
- Networking events – Like Green Drinks, and different events on campuses and organized by the city and the province.
- Eco, solar and green events – Good green events posted at:
- Visit solar installations – It’s surprising how many there are that you can find out about.
- Volunteer Experience – There are lots of ways to do this, but why not try Habitat for Humanity. Pick up some valuable experience, get some roofing experience, show that you’re a decent guy and meet lots of other people that are interested in doing good and pound nails. Good experience, makes you more employable and excellent networking. Also, I’m not sure how much solar they do, but if they do one project a year in solar, they’ll give first dibs to the active volunteers. There are probably ten other good ideas out there for good volunteering.
- Other Green and Solar Organizations –
- Canadian Solar Energy Industries Association. Here is their member list of solar energy companies, consider joining CanSIA, especially if you’re still a student, look at their training for solar panel installation, and most relevant, their CanSIA Employment page.
- The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association has a number of Educational Links to programs they offer or are affiliated with. There are others, use your google-fu.
It’s tough out there, but fortune favours the prepared. I wish I were hiring solar installers, but for now, other people are and more will be soon. Good luck.