President Obama launch a new initiative to expand the nation’s solar industry workforce during a visit to Utah’s Hill Air Force Base on Friday, seeking to gain support for his economic agenda in a heavily-Republican state.
The Washington Times reported that the Energy Department will seek to train 75,000 people — including veterans — to enter the solar workforce by 2020, increasing the goal it set in May 2014 by 25,000.
“We’ve got to be relentless in our work to grow the economy and create good jobs,” Obama said after touring the brief tour, adding that other nations are seeking to expand their economies as well. “And that’s why we have to redouble our efforts to make sure that we’re competitive, to make sure that we’re taking the steps that are needed for us to be successful.”
Dan Utech, deputy special assistant to the president for energy and climate change, told reporters in a phone call Friday the initiative reflects the president’s conviction that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”
The plan will expand on the Department of Energy SunShot Initiative’s Solar Instructor Training Network currently running at more than 400 community colleges according to NBC news.
The White House also announced the Solar Ready Vets program aimed at helping veterans transition into the solar industry.
A joint program between the Department of Defense and the DOE, it’s currently being launched at 10 military bases across the country, including Hill Air Force Base and Camp Pendleton in California.
Obama touted the new goal as a way to bolster the economy and help meet the White House’s climate change goals, which call for greenhouse gas emissions to be cut 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
The solar industry is creating jobs at a rate of 10 times faster than the overall economy, the White House said. Obama announced the new program the same day the March jobs report was released showing the most sluggish U.S. employment growth since December 2013.