An IBEW partnership launched the first ever Canada-wide personnel certification for qualified electricians in solar photovoltaic installation and maintenance during the events preceding the 38th IBEW International Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Developed by the National Electrical Trade Council—a partnership between the IBEW First District and the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association—the new program will help standardize solar training curricula across Canada, bringing together the existing patchwork of local training programs into one national course.
First District Vice President Phil Flemming awarded the first PV certifications to six Vancouver Local 213 members, including Dustin Thomas, who is employed by signatory contractor United Power Ltd.
“The IBEW was in danger of being left behind in the renewable field unless we jumped on something like this,” Thomas said at the Sept. 16 event.
A qualified work force for solar PV installation is critical to capturing work in this emerging market, Flemming said. “A national set of articulated standards and training benchmarks is needed as the industry grows.”
The program was jointly developed with CSA Standards, Canada’s leading developer of national safety and workplace regulations.
“We can all be singing the same song and working from the same text,” says Windsor, Ontario, Local 773 Business Manager Sol Furer. “It also means locals don’t have to waste time trying to put together their own curriculum when solar comes to their area.” Furer also represents the Eighth District on the International Executive Council.
Windsor has been a major center for solar growth in the last couple of years, particularly since green energy legislation made Ontario the leader in Canada’s photovoltaic industry.
“The buzz in Ontario is photovoltaics and we’re right in the middle of it,” Furer says. More than 120 Local 773 members went to work this summer installing solar panels for a new 10-megawatt solar farm.
The local has also been busy installing panels on public buildings, like the Tecumseh Arena and a new Windsor elementary school.
“It’s a huge area of growth for us,” Furer says.
All Red Seal-certified electricians who have completed a recognized photovoltaic training program are eligible to be certified through a CSA Standards’ proctored examination. The Red Seal is the national certification of excellence in a particular craft.
“This work needs to be done by qualified electricians,” said Thomas. “With solar, we’re talking live power, and you don’t want someone doing this work who isn’t fully qualified and experienced.”
The program will be marketed by CSA Standards across Canada to apprenticeship programs, universities and local governments to encourage the growth of a trained solar work force.
“We see this as being the go-to curriculum for all solar trainers across Canada,” Flemming said.