State Looks to Big Solar to Fix Jobs Woes

By Published On: September 17, 2010

Solar-related jobs are down, but the state administration expects the large-scale solar projects expected to break ground around California in the coming months to boost jobs. The downward solar construction jobs trend could be reversed in 2011 because more solar energy projects are expected to be approved by state regulators by the end of the year, Barbara Halsey, executive director of the state-run California Workforce Investment Board, said September 15. The state expects to factor in the California Energy Commission’s recent grants to local workforce investment boards, community colleges, labor and trade organizations, as well as private companies throughout the state. During the mid-week forum, Halsey presented an analysis of the available workforce supply in the counties where projects are expected to break ground. According to Halsey, the number of construction jobs in solar energy industries has fallen in areas of the state the past two years. For example, in Los Angeles County, there were an estimated 104,100 construction jobs, sometimes solar-related, in July of this year, down from an average 116,500 in 2009 and a 2008 average of 145,200. Also, L.A.’s overall unemployment rate has risen from an average of 7.5 percent in 2008 to 13.4 percent as of July 2010. In the Riverside-San Bernardino County area, where a number of photovoltaic projects are planned, the number of construction jobs shrunk to 59,000 in July, down from 67,400 in 2009 and 90,700 the year prior. Meanwhile, the region’s unemployment rate has risen from 8.2 percent in 2008 to about.15.1 percent two months ago. The number of solar-related construction jobs was also down in Kern, Imperial, San Benito, San Diego and San Luis Obispo counties, Halsey said. Each region has plans to add large-scale solar projects in the future. Halsey says that there are now 85 registered apprentice programs available in Riverside County for construction occupations and 89 in San Bernardino County. Other areas are expecting to add large-scale solar projects in the coming months, which also have numerous registered apprenticeship programs in place to aid people entering the solar jobs industry.

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