Higgins Calls for Support of Solar Ready Vets Program
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) called on Congress to support the Solar Ready Vets program, a federal initiative introduced by the White House to provide job training and opportunities for veterans in the rapidly growing solar industry. Speaking on the House Floor on Earth Day, Higgins urged colleagues to support the new initiative.
Solar industry employment is expected to grow by 20% nationwide in 2015, and new jobs will be created in Western New York with the opening of SolarCity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 5.3% of the nation’s 21.2 million veterans are currently unemployed, with an additional 190,000 veterans leaving the United States military each year. 114,000 veterans reside in Western New York.
In September 2014 Congressman Higgins wrote to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to urge Niagara Falls Air Force Base to be considered for one of three sites for the pilot program which became the Solar Ready Vets initiative. Recently it was announced the program will be expanded to six additional bases. In a letter to the Department of Energy Higgins is urging the Administration to choose the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station as one of the sites, noting the base’s proximity to SolarCity and an existing solar training education program at Erie Community College.
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Below are remarks made by Congressman Higgins on the House Floor:
“Mr. Speaker: I rise in support of the recently announced Solar Ready Vets program, the recently announced federal initiative to train veterans for jobs in the solar industry.
“Solar power accounted for 32% of electric generating capacity that came on line in the United States last year, creating 31,000 American jobs.
“The energy company SolarCity will soon open one of the largest solar panel manufacturing plants in the world in my home community of Buffalo, New York, creating 3,500 jobs in our region.
“174,000 Americans work in the solar industry, a number that is quickly increasing. We should seize the opportunity to ensure that our veterans can participate in this growth.
“The Solar Ready Vets program trains veterans for jobs in the solar industry at ten military bases across the country. We are calling for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station to be one of those sites. This program creates jobs, fights climate change, and provides economic opportunity to our returning veterans.
“I call on Congress to support our veterans, support clean energy and support American jobs by supporting the Solar Ready Vets program.”
The Solar Ready Vets initiative aims to train 75,000 solar workers, including veterans, by the year 2020. Initiatives like Solar Ready Vets will ensure our nation’s service members can transition into civilian life with dignity and purpose, beginning a career in one of our country’s fastest growing industries. Matching capable, skilled workers with America’s growing demand for cheap, clean power will produce great benefits for our nation’s environment and economy.