Governor Cuomo Congratulates First Graduating Class of the Solar Ready Vets Program at Fort Drum

Active military personnel complete workforce training preparing them to transition into New York’s rapidly growing solar industry

February 17, 2016

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today congratulated the first 19 Fort Drum military personnel to complete the Solar Ready Vets training program, which prepares them for careers in the growing solar industry after their transition from military service. The Solar Ready Vets program at Fort Drum is the first graduating cohort supported by the U.S. Department of Energy in New York and one of five active programs in the nation.

“As the solar industry continues to grow in this state, we need to make sure New Yorkers are ready to fill jobs that will fuel this new economy,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Solar Ready Vets training program offers a unique opportunity for veterans to gain the skillset necessary to begin their careers in high-demand industries while securing a cleaner and greener future for New York State.”

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, said, "We know that veterans make the best employees because of their wide-ranging experience, ability to overcome challenges and drive to succeed. Governor Cuomo has worked hard to ensure that businesses in New York State welcome veterans with open arms. This inaugural class of highly trained and dedicated workers shows we can meet the demand of the many clean-energy businesses that have come to call New York State home. I’m proud to participate in this first-of-its-kind event and encourage other veterans to explore this opportunity.”

Today’s graduation ceremony at Fort Drum was attended by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, energy officials from New York State, Ft. Drum and the U.S. Department of Energy, state and local elected officials, and SUNY Canton administrators and faculty. Solar industry representatives were also in attendance to interview a number of the graduating solar-ready veterans for jobs.

The Solar Ready Vets program offers technical training in hands-on labs to prepare military personnel for jobs as solar installers, salespeople, inspectors or jobs in related fields. The first of five classes in the Fort Drum Solar Ready Vets program included 19 service members who attended classes taught by SUNY Canton instructors on how to size and install solar energy systems, connect solar projects to the grid, and interpret and comply with local building codes. The program also arranges in-person and computer-based interviews for program graduates with leading solar photovoltaic firms.

The Solar Ready Vets program was launched by the U.S. Department of Energy in September 2014 to prepare veterans for post-military careers. The Fort Drum program, which began on January 11, 2016, was created through collaboration among the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, U.S. Department of Energy, Fort Drum, SUNY Canton and solar installation companies. NYSERDA provided support for startup costs, curriculum development and training for the initial five cohorts at Fort Drum. There is no cost for Fort Drum personnel participating in these cohorts. Service members may use GI Bill benefits to cover the cost of training after the initial cohorts are completed.

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik said, “This is exciting news for these Fort Drum soldiers and I congratulate them on this accomplishment,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “The Solar Ready Vets program helps our North Country heroes get important jobs while also helping a vital renewable energy program – a win-win for our community. I am excited for this first class of graduates and look forward to congratulating many more Solar Ready Vets from Fort Drum.”

Senator Patty Ritchie said, “When men and women enlist in the military, they take on the tremendous responsibility of protecting our freedom. We have a big responsibility too—and that’s providing them with the support they need to transition into new careers after their time of service has ended. I would like to not only thank today’s graduates for their unwavering devotion to our nation, but also for their successful completion of the Solar Ready Vets training program.”

Senator Joseph Griffo, chairman of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, said, “I’m pleased that the Solar Ready Vets Program is providing an opportunity for the military men and women who proudly served our nation to be involved in an industry that has the potential to grow across our state. I wish these graduates all the best in their new pursuits.”

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell said, "I was pleased to attend today's graduation for the first class of military personnel from Fort Drum that have completed the Solar Ready training program. It is wonderful that we are able to provide our military personnel, many of whom stay in the North Country after they complete their service at Fort Drum, with skills and training for new jobs in our economy. It gives our veterans a jump start as they transition from active duty to the workforce, and it provides employers an opportunity to hire well trained, disciplined workers ready to meet the challenges ahead at a time when New York is among the leaders in jobs in the solar industry in the country."

Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush said, “I’d like to congratulate the inaugural class of the Solar Energy Vets Program located at Ft. Drum. These men and women, who were once tasked with protecting our homeland, are now transitioning into an important career path aimed at protecting our environment. The field of alternative energy is one that continues to grow every year. It is also encouraging to see institutions within the community such as SUNY Canton giving back to these vets in the way they know best – through education. I applaud the efforts made by the Department of Energy in conjunction with NYSERDA, Ft. Drum, SUNY Canton and the solar installation companies to give back to members of our community who have already given their country so much.”

Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance for New York State, said, “Under Governor Cuomo, New York continues to increase the use of solar to promote economic development, having created 8,250 jobs in the solar industry since 2013, and protect our environment. Graduates of the Solar Ready Vets program possess the knowledge and technical skills to succeed in our growing clean energy economy, and will help New York build a cleaner and more resilient power system.”

John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said, “Governor Cuomo’s NY-Sun initiative has accelerated solar growth across the State, creating a need for highly skilled professionals to meet the growing demand for clean, affordable solar power. The Solar Ready Vets graduates are critical to helping New York achieve Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision strategy, increase renewable energy, increase investment and increase jobs.”

SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran said, “SUNY Canton was afforded a very important opportunity through the Solar Ready Vets program at Fort Drum. It allowed us to further our outreach to military personnel and provide the technology-driven, sustainability-focused, applied education that is the hallmark of our academic programs. I congratulate each of the servicemen who completed their solar training and look forward to their continuing success. A special thank you is in order for the U.S. Department of Energy, Governor Cuomo, NYSERDA and all others who made this program possible. We are excited to continuing this program through our Career Ready Education and Success Training Center for Workforce Development.”

Eric J. Hesse, Director, New York State Division of Veterans Affairs, said, “The Solar Ready Vets program is off to a great start with the graduation of 19 service members. It is a great opportunity for those who proudly served to start working in the clean energy environment. These veterans will be at the tip of the spear for Governor Cuomo’s bold clean and renewable energy initiatives.”

Acting Senior Commander, Fort Drum, Brigadier General Paul Bontrager said, "The Solar Ready Vets program gives these soldiers a leg up to move forward in the next phase of life. These graduates will carry Army values to do the work of America."

Governor Cuomo’s initiatives for Veterans, Soldiers and Military Families in employment, training and education are making a difference in the lives of our veterans. The State Division of Veterans’ Affairs Advisors works with veterans to assist them in achieving their educational goals, employment or benefits. To learn more, visit www.veterans.ny.gov.

The New York State Department of Labor also offers programs to assist veterans obtain employment or enhance their job skills. To learn more, visit: labor.ny.gov/vets.

New York’s growing solar industry and clean energy workforce are playing a leading role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting our environment, and generating economic development in all regions of the state. The state has seen a significant increase in the amount of solar power installed and in development under the Governor’s NY-Sun initiative, increasing 575 percent from 2012 through 2015. The program has also generated a significant increase in the number of solar-related jobs across the State. According to a national report announced last week, New York’s solar industry is now the fourth largest in the nation and currently employs more than 8,250 workers, an increase of more than 3,000 jobs since 2013. In 2016, double-digit job growth is expected to continue with another 1,000 additional jobs created as a result of the state’s robust solar project pipeline.

The Reforming the Energy Vision is Governor Cuomo’s strategy to build clean energy and attract new investment to build a more resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers. REV encompasses groundbreaking regulatory reform to integrate clean energy into the core of our power grid, redesigned programs and strategies to unlock private capital, and active leadership in deploying innovative energy solutions across the State’s own public facilities and operations. REV will enable a dynamic, clean energy economy operating at a scale that will stimulate opportunities for communities across the state to create jobs and drive local economic growth, while protecting our environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. Successful initiatives have already been launched as part of Reforming the Energy Vision such as NY Sun, NY Green Bank, NY Prize, K-Solar, and a commitment to improve energy affordability for low-income communities. To learn more about REV, visit http://www.ny.gov/REV4NY.