CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WVEC) -- One in 50 new jobs in the United States is said to be tied to the solar industry, which is expected to add 36,000 full-time workers every year for the next five to seven years.
It was a perfect fit for Tidewater Community College to develop its new solar/renewable energy curriculum and link that with the school's commitment to helping military veterans.
Thus was born the "TCC Solar Ready Veterans" program. More than 100 military vets have graduated from the program since last year
"They go through the program taught on this campus here, and when they leave service, then they're fully certified and ready to enter into the employment market," said TCC President Edna Baehre-Kolovani.
TCC partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy and Navy Region Mid-Atlantic last summer for the pilot program on the Chesapeake Campus, that guaranteed sailors would have employment interviews with up to five solar companies. Now, Dominion Virginia Power and its foundation are on board.
"Getting our veterans back to work, that is a tremendous alignment here, a common mission we have," said Dominion Vice President Jim Eck. "One out every five new hires we have is coming out of the military as a veteran at Dominion."
Vets who've gone though the program say it is precisely what they needed.
"It is awesome," said Navy veteran Josh Banning. "I learned a lot. It's a great program, walking you through everything from site surveys to your load calculations."
Navy veteran Harold Craddock was equally enthusiastic. "It's outstanding," he said. "It gives us the opportunity to take these certifications that are required to excel in he career field of renewable energies, instead of just going into it blind, you're getting the training hands-on."
The program boasts a 95 percent pass rate on the certification exam.
And while solar efforts appear to be full speed ahead around here, just south of the border, there's a different story. Earlier this week, the Currituck County Board of Commissioners banned solar array construction, citing problems with the glistening mirrored panels covering farmland and disturbing nearby residents.