In today’s podcast, we discuss the supply side, the challenges in labor that we face in the construction business, and our strategies to plan for future labor supply.


About Jamie Duran &
Solar Harmonics
Brought to you by Solar Harmonics in Northern California,  who invite their customers to “Own Their Energy” by purchasing a solar panel system or their home, business, or farm.  You can check out the website for the best solar energy equipment installer, Solar Harmonics, here.   Each episode we discuss questions facing people making the decision to go solar. The solutions to your questions are given to you –  straight  – by one of the leading experts in the solar industry, Jamie  Duran,  president of Solar Harmonics.   Feel free to search our library for answers to questions that you’re facing when considering solar.

Produced by
Magnified Media
Solar Cast is produced by Adam Duran, director of Magnified Media. Based in Walnut Creek, California, Magnified Media is an internet marketing firm focused on getting Google local Maps placement, digital marketing, website design, local search ranking and reputation management for businesses of all sizes. Check out their podcast, Local SEO in 10 here!
Magnified Media helping business owners master their marketing by:
– getting them more online reviews,
– getting their website seen and
– creating engaging social media content.
In his spare time, Adam enjoys working as the volunteer director of the Delta Education Foundation and practicing Jiu-Jitsu.

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Solar Job Prospects [Transcript]

Listen to the Episode Here

Adam (00:00):

Hello. Hello, Jamie. All right, Adam, here we go again. Woo. Very excited. Very excited. Oh yeah. Oh, I was checking the stats out on our little podcast here and you know that we have had 25,000 total plays of the podcast. Unbelievable. And not all of it in the Ukraine. Okay. This is spread across the world, so good job. Good job Jamie.

Jamie (00:36):

Oh, well yeah, we’d love to hear some feedback, more feedback. Actually we get tons of really great comments on the podcast. But yeah, we’d love to hear international topics as well. It’s a, it’s definitely solar is the best, most efficient way to take advantage of the sun. And we have so many sunny places. It’s kind of crazy that we’re digging power out of the ground in this day and age

Adam (01:00):

And then throwing it up into the atmosphere. Yeah.

Jamie (01:04):

Yeah. You know, there’s I did see a, an article earlier this week said India is getting rid of all their coal plants, which that’d be nice. That’d be and they’re, they’re doing mostly renewable energy sources, a few nuclear, but they’re a solar is just kind of the least expensive way in the long run. And the least amount of you know, natural disaster causing energy production. So pretty cool, pretty good. It’s, you know, solar has a huge future now. It’s had a huge future for years and years, but an animal, it seems that everyone’s kinda catching the wave.

Adam (01:44):

Woo. All right. So what’s on the docket for today’s podcast?

Jamie (01:47):

Well, it’s, you know, they’re, you know, we kinda just talked about the demand side. But now I want to talk about it a little bit about the supply side and that is there is so much business, which is awesome of course. But we’re just not getting a whole lot of people going into the trades anymore. So, you know, solar has been lucky that we are able to attract so many really, really good people that really, you know, they’re not just going in to install solar. They understand that this is actually, you know, you’re helping someone save a ton of money and there’s environmental side and the political side, so they really feel proud of the work that they’re doing, which is great. But in other trades, Holy moly, we just heard from a client in Woodside, which is peninsula and San Mateo County, and he cannot get a roofer out to his group.

Jamie (02:42):

Some, some were saying 18 months. Most are saying they’re not even interested. Like his project is not a, you know, the, no thanks. Thanks. But no thanks. And it’s just crazy because, you know, we have to, he has to do his roof before we can do the solar right with that. But you know, it’s just in areas like that you know, there’s just not enough tradespeople to get all the work done that needs to get done. And so we are trying to help with that because certainly out in East Contra Costa County, you know, all the roofers are jam packed here as well. But we’re, you know, a company we’re working with, we’re trying to get them to go down and, and take care of his roof for him, which would be a you know, that’d be great for him. So, well,

Adam (03:33):

I’ve, I’ve heard that, isn’t it true that like all the trade schools, I mean, it’s like $80,000 a year. Do it go, Oh wait,

Jamie (03:40):

Yeah, no, that’s a Harvard that’s cheaper. But I mean, even like USC or st Mary’s college, I’d say, you know, a hundred thousand or 75,000 my daughter’s friend just came home from college and he’s super excited because he just got hired on as an RA. And actually she said, if two of our scholarships come through she’ll actually be making money because he already has a scholarship, but now even, and living is going to be paid for. So and she said most of the other students are already complaining as they’re finishing, you know, their first semester, first semester, and they’re in debt. $12,000. So,

Adam (04:19):

Well, 12,000, that’s not that much. I mean

Jamie (04:22):

First semester college career, that’s just not so, yes. Yeah. So there is a, you know, there’s certainly, you know, I wouldn’t say a solar installer or a roof person or an electrician. You know, you don’t start out at the top. You’d definitely have to work your way up after three years as an apprentice. Then you can you know, study for the contractor’s exam and get your own contractors license. So let’s start over.

Adam (04:52):

So if I’m thinking about going into the solar industry, so I’m, I want to be an installer. I want to get up on roofs and all that stuff. What’s my first step?

Jamie (05:00):

I would say the first step is actually learn accounting. So that’s a go to go to community college at least and take as many of the accounting courses as you can. Because being able to price out a job is the most critical thing. And if you cannot price the job out correctly and make money and stay sustainable you have no chance. And, you know, it’s, it’s really that, that dooms a lot of the trades people right from the start as they just don’t understand the money. And so I would, I would start there. And then second is, you know, start with a local solar company. Definitely try and talk with the you know, the, the licensed contractor, let them know your plan. I definitely need people and you have to do a variety of tasks in order to get the experience requirement done.

Jamie (05:54):

And it’s, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s important of course. But you know, solar especially cause it touches roofing and electrical and and there’s a huge, about half of the test to become a solar installer is on thermal solar and pool solar and radiant heating and all this stuff that, you know, most solar contractors want nothing to do with. So you still have to learn it. And so it’s it’s a crazy test, at least in California, but you know, it’s, it’s certainly, it’s, it’s required in order to do a solar project. So

Adam (06:31):

So you do three years of apprenticeship and then you can go to get your contractors license to do this,

Jamie (06:38):

Have someone sponsor you, so the person that you’re working for. So like if you leave a job in bad form, you know, just stop showing up or you know, quit without notice or any of the crazy things that people do burning that bridge is not a great plan if you want your contractor’s license. So there’s proper ways to leave a job and, you know, people have different things that happen. But just, you know, quitting without notice is a, you know, happens all the time, but it’s not great for your long term recommendations and it’s really difficult to come back, you know, a year later and say, Hey by the way, boss sorry, I quit on ya and busting you high and dry, but will you sign off on my my experience requirement for the contractors

Adam (07:26):

Exam? Oh, no. Yeah, that’s okay. So be a normal human, that’s one of the checkboxes. Okay.

Jamie (07:34):

But when you say more, well, human, you know, we get it. And I think it’s just because everyone is so used to the instant gratification now that if they get offered another job as paying a dollar more an hour and they quit, they may realize later on that, Oh well shoot you know, that that job that has me working 80 hours a week. And the last one I had was working, you know, 36 hours a week and I had all this extra time to do things and now I’m, all I am doing is solar in the hot sun all day, every day. And I make my dollar more an hour, but I’m not a living. So

Adam (08:11):

There’s was all kinds of stuff. Okay. Do you, so do you know like the, the financial, so I would imagine as a grouper, so just guy, some guy handing up out John just helping, they’re going to get, I don’t know, in California, what do you think are Northern California? What are they going to be making?

Jamie (08:27):

Probably a $15 an hour close to minimum wage.

Adam (08:29):

Okay. So then $15 an hour for whatever the three years?

Jamie (08:33):

No, no, no. It goes up. So once they’re, once they’re on the roof, then they’re in the 20 to $25 an hour range.

Adam (08:40):

Okay. And then after, so they do that for three years, 2020 $5 an hour. They have, they don’t even need a college or a high school degree to do that. They don’t, I mean, do they,

Jamie (08:53):

It’s a, it’s certainly a good to have a GED at least. But yeah, there’s high school, high school equivalency I would say is a minimum. And as we started with, take some accounting classes, take some business classes, just hanging up, you know, learning the trade is one part, but now learning a business there is just endless things to know with workers’ comp and insurance and employees and not getting sued and contracts and you know, deposits and so forth. I mean it’s, there’s so much stuff safety wise and everything that it’s a, it’s a huge amount of information to learn and to just think you’re going to learn it just by installing solar panels is you’re only learning about 30 to 40% of the, of the whole project.

Adam (09:42):

So, but in, in my experience, there are people who don’t want to own, they don’t want to do, they’re, they’re comfortable working under someone. And so for those kinds of people, they’re not interested in going back to school. So the, what’s, what are they topping out at? So you, you said it goes 15, then 25, and then I guess they become a manager of some sort or a foreman.

Jamie (10:06):

Foreman, yeah. In those cases I recommend they just become an electrician because a journeyman electrician and you know, getting into the union, those guys are making anywhere from 80 to $180,000 a year. Yeah, that’s a, that’s significant. So I mean, it’s a dangerous job of course, but you know, you have to take safety precautions and everything, but you’re working around high voltage all the time. And so you’re, you know, it’s a, it’s a really, really important job. And commercial electricians are making, I’ve heard the companies, they work for bill them out at about $400 an hour.

Adam (10:45):

Wow. Okay. So definitely, that’s cool. So I’m still trying to keep us on the solar track here. So if I, if I’ve, so if I’ve been that grouper and then I’m up on the roof for three years, I’m going to community college I maybe become the foreman. And then I’m thinking, Hmm. So if I become, so then I guess I would have to branch off and start my own solar installation company.

Jamie (11:12):

Yeah, yeah. It’s yeah. So then you’re, you’re kind of ready. You would still want a, of course, you know, the more experience you get, the less mistakes you’ll make. And that’s really where the education part comes in is because every mistake you make on a contract you know, you cannot come back to the client. And after the contract science said, Oh shoot, you know, we forgot about the, you know, the building plans, or we forgot about the engineering or we forgot about it and we need you to pay another $2,000. That’s not how it works. You know, you, you get to eat that. And that is a painful, painful lesson sometimes. You definitely, and that’s where that, you know, $12,000 a quarter is equivalent. That’s a, that’s a bargain. That’s some, some of the States. So and the contractor’s board signs with the sides, with the client almost every time. So there’s you know, it’s kind of just the way it is. You have to make sure that you know what you’re doing and that once you put it in writing and you’ve signed off on it and they’ve signed off on it, there’s no going back. So

Adam (12:17):

It makes sense. Yeah. Huh. Wow. So interesting career because a, it sounds like it’s doable and it sounds like you put in the time and you make you start off with, eh, you know, if I’m 18, 19 years old, making whatever, $15 an hour, that’s kind of what I expect. But then to make $25 an hour, that’s pretty nice. And, and you know, I can, I have been around the crews before of guys. They’re, they’re pretty friendly. They’re nice guys. They’re not gonna throw you off the roof for anything.

Jamie (12:55):

No, not at all. Not at all.

Adam (12:56):

But I mean, it just sounds like doing the work there, just like with every job, there’s some bad aspects to it, but you know, you’re still helping. You’re, you’re serving, you’re serving others and yeah, definitely. Oh boy. Yeah,

Jamie (13:13):

It’s a, but you know, we just need more people in the trades and it is not just in solar, but you know, in just about every single trade is dying for people. So I was going to give a plug, actually for Cal jobs, if people are looking for work and, and contractors, if you’re looking for people and you’re in California, you can go onto a site called Cal jobs. You register you post your, your job and through the state they bring in a lot of people. A lot of veterans actually use this to find trades jobs. And a lot of times veterans are not so excited when they come back. They’re not so excited about working in an office, so they are looking for things in the trades. So they’re one to two years. But you know, it’s a dent. They show up on time, all that stuff that they teach you in the military. But yeah, it’s a, it’s actually a really good resource. So everyone that go to Cal jobs.gov and register and we, we posted one job and we got over a hundred responses, which is pretty great. Not all of them are in the area, but definitely people looking for work. So it’s a, it’s been a great resource for us.

Adam (14:27):

Great. I mean, yeah, I think I had definitely talked to a lot of tradespeople and almost all of them ask me how can I use the internet to find workers and, and so we help them in a, in a few ways. But yeah, every one of them always looking for good people who show up on time and do the job, show up, show up, show up, do the job throw anyone else off the roof. Yeah. And you got a job. Yeah.

Jamie (14:54):

Yeah. To answer their phone. That’s a good one too.

Adam (14:57):

Ah, yeah. Answering the phones. Yeah, we get that one too. I understand that.

Jamie (15:01):

Oh, and w one big one for last one for contractors is a, you got to learn how to text if you’re not a texting guy and you’re a phone guy, time to learn because every, every employee now, they don’t answer their phone, but they definitely answer texts.

Adam (15:17):

Yup. I can see that as well. All right. Any last thoughts before we wrap this one up?

Jamie (15:23):

No, no. It was just a really great week. People are super excited about their projects. We’re getting lots of them coming online and tons more set up for 2020. I guarantee 2020 will be our biggest year yet. And we’re just really excited and really thankful for all our customers, all our, everyone in our network and our clients. You know, this podcast and for everything you’re doing for us, Adam has been a huge, huge, huge, huge, so Christmas everybody happy new year. I think we’re going to take the next two weeks off and then, yeah, that’s true. We’re going to regroup in the new year. We’re actually gonna. Wow. That is, it is our B believe in it is the busiest time of the year. Conveniently the permit offices on lower closing from December 24th to January 2nd, so thank you everybody.

Adam (16:16):

Oh well I know it’s the holidays for them. They probably used to be open and then they looked around and one guy was like, why am I here? Why am I the only sucker

Jamie (16:28):

Paid holiday? Why don’t we just, nothing ever happens at the end of the year and nothing. Yeah,

Adam (16:34):

That’ll be fine. Yeah. Okay. Well, we’ll get through it. Okay, great. We’re gonna wrap it up there. If you have any questions for us on a future episode or for a future episode, we’ll be happy to address them. Make sure to follow us on Facebook. Our Facebook page is straight talk solar cast. You can message us through there. Give us a five star rating on Apple iTunes and Hey, if you’re a contractor, why don’t you do us a solid and share this podcast with other of your contractor friends? You would be helping them, I’m sure to Jamie gave them, dropped a link in there that probably that your friend doesn’t know about. So that’s all for today. See you guys next time. All right. Make sure to review as to give us a ranking. It’s awesome.

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