Technical Skills and Job Expectations
The technical skills needed in this profession are commonly acquired by performing general construction or roofing work. Of course, education can compensate for some of these but most employers are going to want to see a bit of verifiable history in construction.
Entry Level – General skills with hand tools, pneumatic nailers, electrical wiring, etc. With most solar installs being done on rooftops, ladder work is also a plus although not necessary. Problem solving skills are a huge advantage because residential and commercial installs are never the same and require innovative solutions. Experience with small machinery like bobcats, trenchers, and mini backhoes and work with various building materials and roof types is another positive attribute.
Foreman – A foreman is usually promoted from the solar installer position. The bare minimum is at least 2 years of experience installing PV systems. In this time, a candidate for a foreman position will have learned how to install and troubleshoot an entire system. He will also be familiar will all pertinent electrical codes. In addition to the technical aspects of the job, a foreman must be able to handle managing a small crew, usually under eight people. This includes time management, assigning tasks based on ability, developing newer members of the crew, training future foremen, and communicating with upper level of management.
Operations manager – An operations manager is responsible for coordinating multiple teams of installers. Previous experience as a foreman isn’t required but does help. At this level, a candidate needs to be familiar with photovoltaic manufacturers and suppliers and overall designs of AC and DC systems. Building codes knowledge and experience with obtaining permits and dealing with inspectors is crucial.