Greater diversity benefits both the employer and employee. Years of studies have proven that workforce diversity and cultural inclusivity create stronger, more innovative, and more resilient organizations. Gender and racial diversity are clearly correlated with profitability, improving a company’s market performance and overall bottom-line.
While Austin has grown a thriving local clean energy industry, more could be done to improve diversity in the workforce. The Solar Foundation’s U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019 shows that people of color (with the exception of Hispanics) and women are underrepresented in the solar workforce. Studies show the lack of diversity stems in part from the industry’s reliance on word-of-mouth recruitment techniques and general unfamiliarity about the industry’s viable career pathways within educational and training programs.
Today, leaders across the industry are naming diversity and equity as top business priorities; yet, the solar workforce continues to fall short in adequately reflecting America’s diverse population. Increasingly more solar companies are also reporting that it is “very difficult” to find and hire qualified workers. This discrepancy between company values and hiring practices results in structural challenges to organizational success. That’s where Solar Austin’s Equitable Clean Energy Jobs Program comes in!
Solar Austin and Huston-Tillotson University (HT) aim to address these hurdles by piloting a structured internship matching program to place women and students of color at solar and other clean energy companies. The City of Austin awarded Solar Austin and HT University an “Equitable Green Jobs” grant to launch this innovative initiative.
The goal of Solar Austin and HT University’s Equitable Clean Energy Jobs Program
is to help facilitate pathways for underrepresented students into clean energy jobs
and to develop a set of best practices for clean energy companies that want to
improve diversity and inclusivity in their recruitment, hiring, and retention of staff.
The program will leverage HT University’s experience developing structured internship protocols that set students up for success in technical fields. Solar Austin will recruit clean energy companies to engage to hire and mentor paid interns and students interested in accessing jobs in the solar and clean energy fields.
Careers in clean energy involve much more than project construction. These businesses employ individuals in sales, marketing, finance, administration, design, engineering, and other areas. With the Equitable Clean Energy Jobs Program, Solar Austin and HT University will expose students from diverse backgrounds to the wide array of sustainability-focused job opportunities. These internships will provide students with access to jobs that pay at least a living wage and provide ample opportunity for advancement and professional mentorship. In the end, this program will foster more resilient and diverse organizations, as well as a more inclusive green jobs ecosystem.