CHESAPEAKE, VA. (NNS) -- Students from the inaugural class of the Solar Ready Vets are slated to graduate from Tidewater Community College (TCC) in Chesapeake, Virginia. on Aug. 17, after six weeks of training in solar energy system installation. Since September 2014, the Department of Energy (DOE) has formed a joint partnership with Naval Station Norfolk and Hampton Roads, as well as various military installations across the U.S., to provide active duty service members nearing the end of their enlistment with possible career options. "This program was put together to give to vets who are nearing the end of their careers, an opportunity to train in the solar industry," said Barry Rice, an instructor with TCC. The courses take place on or nearby military installations and are led by U.S. DOE master instructors using solar photovoltaic equipment. The pilot program prepares veterans for careers as solar energy system installers, sales representatives and system inspectors. The DOE covers all costs for tuition, materials and exam fees. "You have a family of five and you're used to making so much, and you go to the civilian sector and it's a fraction of what you make, so this opportunity gives you a footing," said Aviation Boatswain's Mates (Fuels) 1st Class Shane Hawkey. At the end of their training, service members will take the North American Board of Certified Energy Professionals Photovoltaic Entry Level Certification Exam. They will also receive employment interviews from major U.S. solar companies in hopes of finding full-time employment. As of 2014 the U.S. solar industry employed 174,000 professionals and is poised to add 35,000 additional full-time employees each year. "Anyone who has training in the solar industry is definitely going to have a leg up on acquiring those jobs, and that's what we're trying to do here," said Rice. "We want to impart the knowledge, get them acclimated to the industry and the way the industry operates, and once they get that information on their resumes, get them able to speak intelligently on the industry."
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