Salvador Torres started working with American Solar Direct as an installer just a few months ago. For him, solar is a second career. Before enrolling in the “Renewable Energy Technician: Solar PV Installation and Maintenance” program at L.A. Trade Tech, Salvador spent 15 years working in the office of his father’s used car dealership. By the time his father retired, Salvador was ready for a change.
“I wanted to be doing something positive,” he explains. “I liked giving back to nature.”
After two semesters of classes at L.A. Trade Tech, he began volunteering with GRID Alternatives, a non-profit organization that provides solar panels to low-income homeowners while offering training to people interested in the solar industry. He was able to spend almost all of last summer working with GRID Alternatives, and after three months, he’d gained the hands-on experience that most solar companies seek.
Salvador planned to continue the program at L.A. Trade Tech with a full courseload this fall. But during the first few weeks of classes in September, an instructor pulled him aside and suggested that he apply for a job at American Solar Direct. Before he knew it, he’d landed a full-time job as a solar installer. He is still on track to complete his degree at L.A .Trade Tech, and he feels certain that he wants to stay in the solar industry long-term. Ideally, he says, after learning the basics of solar installation, he’ll be able to move into a sales or management role. “I want to advance in the industry,” he says.
Salvador is not alone in landing a job working on solar energy. “People are getting hired left and right,” he says. Many of his classmates and his friends from GRID Alternatives are now in full-time positions at solar companies.
Over the last six years, the number of solar installations in L.A. has increased by 800%, leading to thousands of new jobs. And the city’s solar industry has plenty of room to grow. With less than 2% of the city’s power coming from the sun, Los Angeles still has a long way to go before reaching its full solar potential. Environment California is calling for the city to achieve 20% local solar power by 2020, which would reduce air pollution, cut carbon emissions, and create an estimated 32,000 new jobs — allowing tens of thousands of Angelenos to follow in Salvador’s footsteps.