With 350 full-time employees and over 1,700 contracted staff members, Strata is an important employer for many workers in the solar industry and a leader in solar workforce development. Prior to the inception of SHINE, Strata developed a solar workforce training regimen for their own employees.
The majority of contracted employees working on Strata Solar projects live in close proximity to the project sites, which works to engage the community workforces and bolster local economies. Because solar is such a new industry to the majority of the country, many workers came to the job site with no prior solar installation experience. Realizing this, in 2016 Strata’s Founder and CEO Markus Wilhelm created a training initiative within Strata called “First Time Right”.
“[First Time Right] gives newly hired individuals with no prior solar experience an opportunity to get hands on training to effectively and safely work on our projects,” said Michael Carrington, Training Manager at Strata Solar. “It also gives our workers a skillset to build upon that they can carry through to the next projects Strata constructs as well as other solar companies or construction companies after work in that State has finished,” Carrington continued.
First Time Right is our commitment to a quality control management process that has become the basis for our culture of safety and excellence here at Strata, “at Strata safety always comes first as we strive for excellence, so we like to say ‘let’s get it right the first time so that the second time is not an option,’” Carrington said.
Strata's experience with training individuals who are new to solar has been extremely helpful in getting SHINE off the ground. Much of SHINE's curriculum and training techniques were developed in tandem with how Strata runs their First Time Right program.
While Strata makes it a priority to be heavily involved in the solar workforce development space, they are also a leading supporter of cutting edge clean technology development. In 2014, Strata’s CEO Markus Wilhelm started UNC Chapel Hill Institute of Environment’s annual Clean Tech Summit, an event which, according to the Institute’s website, convenes more than 1,000 students, business professionals, international speakers, policy members, and academics for two days of engagement to foster leadership, share new ideas, and bring growth opportunities to the Southeast’s clean tech economy.
“[The summit] gives students and industry members alike the opportunity to understand new developments in the industry and help students understand where their skills can be applied in the clean energy economy,” Carrington told SHINE.
In addition to the Clean Tech Summit, Strata recently launched its first Clean Tech Award competition in October 2019. “Strata sees this competition as an avenue to advance clean energy technology and support and encourage individuals and institutions to challenge traditional approaches to the energy ecosystem.
“We are looking to reward and encourage early stage ideas and technology to create proof of concepts that will help advance us as a society towards better clean energy solutions,” Carrington said. The winners, announced in February 2020, were UNC students Olivia Corriere and Zach Walker for their idea of an app to track the user’s carbon footprint and to give the user an easy way to offset it by investing in clean energy companies that may not have access to traditional funding.
With a program like First Time Right under their belt and their nurturing of clean tech innovation, Strata is a highly valued founding partner of SHINE. In fact, Strata is helping us with the logistics of building and deploying our mobile lab solutions to be able to expand our training programs to every corner of Virginia. We at SHINE are thrilled to have their support and willingness to lend their expertise and resources to empower the solar workforce in Virginia.
About Strata Solar
Founded in 2008, Strata Solar is a fully vertically integrated solar service provider, uniquely positioned to develop, engineer, procure, operate, and maintain solar projects throughout their entire life cycle. Strata started off in the solar thermal and commercial rooftop solar markets before becoming a leader in the utility-scale solar industry
The Solar Hands-On Instructional Network of Excellence (SHINE), is a public-private partnership dedicated to building innovative solar career pathways in Virginia. SHINE’s mission is to develop a qualified, diverse, equitable, and inclusive solar workforce, equip Virginians with the tools and knowledge to enter the solar sector with a competitive edge, help solar developers and construction companies source qualified and trained talent, and bridge the gap between solar jobs supply and solar jobs demand.