Photo voltaic opponents be a part of forces, plan to handle scarcity of electricians – By Fran Gonzalez – Belfast – Waldo
Montville – Two employee-owned solar companies have teamed up to accelerate the regional transition to renewable energy and meet the growing demand for zero-emission solutions.
Insource Renewables of Pittsfield was acquired by ReVision Energy of Montville under a contract announced on February 12th.
ReVision Energy operates five facilities in Montville, South Portland, Enfield, Brentwood, New Hampshire and North Andover, Massachusetts.
According to the press release announcing the acquisition of Insource by ReVision, the company has installed more than 10,000 clean energy systems in northern New England since 2003, including solar power systems, heat pumps, battery storage and charging stations for electric vehicles.
Phil Coupe, Co-Founder of ReVision, said that all new renewable technologies are electricity based and there is a shortage of qualified electricians. “We’re trying to solve this riddle.”
Vaughan Woodruff, Managing Director of Insource and former instructor and technical consultant, has been appointed to lead and expand the ReVision Energy Training Center for electricians.
The training program began in 2018 at the South Portland facility. At the time, ReVision was the first solar company in the country to launch such a state-certified program. The center streamlines the lengthy certification process and helps individuals progress through the levels of apprentice, journeyman, and licensed master electrician.
The program is offered to people who want to hire ReVision, who have at least a high school education and who are looking for good jobs, good salaries and good performance.
“We built a stand-alone facility that we use to build arrays,” he said. “They do actual installations and then take them down.”
According to Coupe, a total of 20 trainees are currently taking part in the program. “The first 10 started before COVID,” he said, and 10 more people have signed up since then.
“Vaughan (Woodruff) is nationally accredited,” said Coupe, “and it’s perfect to have someone of your caliber work for the program.” “He’s a real superstar.”
Woodruff said that while traditional education is based on learning theory and practice, the model ReVision uses puts people into practice and then complements that experience with theory.
What has happened now, he said, is that people are going through a two year community college or union teaching program where “they are removed from work”. Insource does not have the size to develop an internal training program and is dependent on external resources.
“It’s difficult for our people to have one day work in the field and then go to a class,” he said. “It gets difficult when one or two people do that.”
The ReVision training program aims to complement the working day with real apprentice learning as well as online courses. “It’s the richest form of education,” he said.
Under Woodruff’s direction, the education center will be expanded to include training in other areas of the industry, including leadership and business development.
The other ReVision co-founder, Fortunat Mueller, said: “The development of the workforce is one of the most pressing challenges in our industry. We have high expectations that Vaughan can help us solve this problem by taking the helm of our own ReVision Energy Training Center. ”
The training program was launched in response to the longstanding shortage of electricians in the state.
Chuck Fraser, executive director of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 1253, has firsthand knowledge of the dwindling number of skilled technical workers and shared some of the reasons the trades were successful in an interview with The Republican Journal on Feb. 18.
Electricians in Maine, he said, are a graying breed. “This year we will be sending 80 people into retirement.” And all of the recent solar applications, he said, are booming the industry.
As he sees it, the problem begins in schools where the advice of career counselors is to get students to go to college rather than promoting colleges and apprenticeships.
According to Fraser, the union travels to job fairs and gives children information about the trade to expose them to at least one other option.
It’s hard, he said. “That’s only about 15 minutes compared to 12 years of being told you have to go to college.”
“I think these professions are rejected by society,” he said. “The idea that you have to go to four year school comes back to bite us.”
As the industry continues to grow, there are only so many eager to pursue this career path, according to Fraser, and as the state starts school, the pool is shrinking.
Fraser gave the example of Bangor High School, where 12 students graduated from the electrical craft program. Of that sum, he said, maybe six will pursue careers. “That’s sad,” he said. “You will always need an electrician, a plumber or a carpenter.”
Woodruff agreed and said, “It’s pretty insane”. He was referring to the typical perception that the idea of a craftsman evokes. The truth is, these jobs are filled by the least indebted people who earn decent wages in jobs that are in high demand across the state, he said.