Before I answer the title of this post, a brief reality check: Nobody will benefit from The Solar Foundation’s annual job census until we all step up and finish funding its completion.
I’m not going to name names, but I hear from reliable sources that a lot of big name solar companies that we all know have not contributed anything to this year’s census effort. Many have not even filled out the actual census, a freebie no-brainer.
Really? That’s disappointing, especially considering all of the national PR and solar marketing goodness that we all receive from it every year. On top of that, here’s a Top 5 list of how the entire solar industry, big and small, benefits each year from TSF’s Solar Jobs census report:
- It’s ammunition for passing solar legislation. Solar advocacy organizations use the jobs numbers on our collective behalf to show that the solar industry is an economic powerhouse (pun intended) for job creation. These legislative wins and losses affect all of us, especially when we’re talking about preserving net metering, increasing community solar, reducing soft costs, and streamlining permitting and interconnection. It’s the job census that gives our solar advocates political clout.
- It’s an important financial analyst tool. Have a publicly traded company? Verified, documented industry job growth tells analysts that demand is high and that the solar industry is growing and worth capital investments. That not only affects public companies on the stock market, but also increases investments in solar REITs, clean tech funding, and the willingness of banks to fund huge solar installations. So the more we show job growth, the more Wall St. sees solar as a good bet to pump in money.
- It’s used for company PR. All solar companies can use the solar job census data to show customers that they’re part of a growing industry that’s creating jobs in their local (and national) community. Customers and politicians love to support local jobs, so your company can brag about solar’s job success on your blogs, newsletters, and social media.
- It’s a great HR tool. All solar companies can use the jobs census to attract candidates for their growing businesses. As of 2013, we’re a force of 141,000 and growing, and candidates hear about that in the press. If you’re an engineer, software developer, or electrician, wouldn’t you rather work for an industry that just keeps on growing and helps the world, to boot? The bigger we are, the more attractive we become to qualified people seeking stable careers.
- It’s a workforce training tool. Speaking of careers, educational institutions and trade schools also use these numbers to either expand or eliminate training programs and college courses and graduate courses for our growing workforce needs. Without hardcore numbers, new classes may be cut prematurely, reducing our pool of qualified labor. And of course, with a shortage of labor, projects might be delayed, labor prices rise, and you might be pressured into hiring or training someone whose inexperience causes a project to finish late…or who causes an accident that raises your workers comp premiums. Not good.
It’s easy to think that funding The Solar Foundation’s Jobs report is someone else’s responsibility, like SEIA for example. Actually, it’s not SEIA’s responsibility, since TSF is a separate (100% tax deductible) nonprofit foundation. SEIA contributes a small part to the effort, but the rest of the funding depends on us and our companies to make this worthy annual investment.
So, please donate now. I’ve personally contributed $100, but I hope your company will be much more generous than li’l ol’ Solar Fred.
Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is the founder and CMO of UnThink Solar, and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. For more solar marketing info, sign up for the UnThink Solar newsletter or follow @SolarFred on Twitter.