When Will Thompson returned from active military service with the United States Army in Iraq in 2005, he confronted many of the typical questions facing other veterans who transition from the military to the civilian workforce. He sought a follow-on career that would prove fulfilling and meaningful in similar ways as he had experienced while serving our nation. Identifying and choosing such a path on one’s own can present significant challenges for many veterans.
Ultimately, Will joined lifelong friend and fellow Army veteran Dan Leary in developing a turnkey, vertically integrated carbon and energy solutions company that would focus on reducing our nation’s reliance on foreign fossil fuels while making alternative energies more accessible to the public. After Dan spent 2006 fleshing out the business model, the two embarked fulltime with the founding of Nexamp in 2007. What followed was a journey of educating and enabling home and business owners to leverage state and federal incentive programs feeding a new industry burgeoning with growing renewable energy options. As entrepreneurs, Will and Dan sought out fellow veterans as employees due to their inherent hands-on technical skills and can-do attitudes characteristic of military service. Through evolution of the business model over the next 13 years, Nexamp has emerged as a nationally recognized developer, builder and owner of commercial solar and storage plants – while also offering Americans a choice in where they procure their energy through Community Solar program participation.
Will understands the importance of finding a calling when returning home as a veteran, and that finding mentors and potential employers ready and willing to give veterans that chance is critical. To help make those opportunities more widely known to fellow veterans, he volunteered to serve on the Advisory Board of the Solar Ready Vets Network, which brings together a group of solar workforce development programs and initiatives funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO).
The network connects veterans and transitioning military service members with career training, professional development, and employment opportunities in the solar industry.
Launched in 2014, the Solar Ready Vets Network has expanded and now includes a variety of programs and initiatives that provide necessary resources to rapidly increase the number of veterans employed in the solar industry. Some of the newest programs include:
- Solar Ready Vets Fellowship Program: This program places active-duty military service members in 12-week, work-based learning programs with solar employers to help them transition to civilian careers. The Solar Foundation leads this program in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s “Hiring Our Heroes” program and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
- Solar Opportunities and Readiness (SOAR) Initiative: The SOAR Initiative connects veterans with solar training, credentialing, professional development, and employment opportunities. The Solar Foundation leads this program in partnership with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) and SEIA.
- Cyberguardians and STEM Warriors: This project, led by the SunSpec Alliance, provides training for veterans with cybersecurity and information technology experience.
Almost 20,000 veterans are employed in the U.S. solar industry today, which accounts for approximately 8% of the solar workforce, as compared to 6% veteran employment in the economy overall. Solar Ready Vets aims to expand that number and draw more veterans into the growing field of solar as our nation strives to complete its transition to cleaner, renewable sources of energy. As a member of the Advisory Board, Will remains committed to contributing to the success of the organization, our veterans and our country.