Two Military Veterans on the Front Lines of the Solar Industry
Over the past five years, military representation in the solar workforce has risen nearly 20 percent. Veterans now represent about 9 percent of all solar workers in the U.S., which is significantly higher than veteran employment of overall workers in the country. Part of the reason behind this growth is that solar industry employers are increasingly realizing the value that veterans add to their organizations. In fact, 59 percent of employers reported that veterans perform "better than" or "much better than" their non-veteran peers. From adaptability to attitude to being driven by a sense of duty, veterans have been groomed to succeed in the mission-driven clean energy industry. Below we highlight CS Energy’s Senior Superintendent, Jerry Gilbert, and Construction Manager, Aaron Pape, who successfully transitioned from the U.S. Army and the U.S. Coast Guard, respectively, and are now making their mark in the battle against climate change.
How has your military experience helped you in your renewable energy career?
Jerry: “The biggest thing I have noticed is the management of so many different people from all corners of the world. In the military, I could be in Asia today and Central America tomorrow, and being able to adapt was crucial. At CS Energy, we are so culturally diverse; We work with people from all over the world. It is very nice to see everyone working towards the same common goal.”
Aaron: “The Coast Guard was good preparation for a career in solar. As a Construction Manager, I need to be a bit of a jack of all trades. My rating was as a boatswain’s mate, which is a similar situation in that you need to have a working knowledge of how all the other rates work. I heard it said more than once, you’re either a boatswain’s mate or you work for one. Shipboard Life also gave me the best education money can’t buy in emergency management and damage control. It’s a whole different kind of stress when you’re awoken in the middle of the night because your engine room is on fire, and you’re part of the only fire department within 500 miles. Then, and now, when we have emergencies, we do what we’re trained to do and trust that we’ll make the right decisions.”
How has your experience at CS Energy been thus far?
Jerry: “I have been with CS Energy for just over 5 years, and it has been a good ride. I have seen us go through significant changes and growth, which has been really exciting and rewarding. And when we have faced challenges, we have come out on the other side stronger together.”
Aaron: “CS Energy has been a fulfilling experience so far. We are able to accomplish an incredible amount of work, and we are fortunate enough to get to work with the best folks in the industry. It feels great knowing that I can point to a hard number of megawatts that I had a hand in building. That’s a real number of homes that can benefit from clean, renewable energy.”
What is your favorite part about working at CS Energy?
Jerry: “The interest the company takes in enabling each individual to reach their full potential. A new hire may start out as a Safety Manager, but end up as a Project Manager. We do not hold someone where they don’t want to be. We always support them with transitioning to another career path within the company that they are better suited to.”
Aaron: “My favorite part of working at CS Energy is the people I get the chance to work with. There’s such a diverse body of knowledge within the company, and I’m happy to add to it where I can, as well as learn from it.”
What advice do you have for other veterans interested in transitioning into the renewable energy industry?
Jerry: “Be ready to use your skills that you have learned in the military, adapt, overcome, time management, and pay attention to the details. Just like the military, these skills will be your keys to success.”
Aaron: “Jump in. There’s an infinite amount to learn about this industry, and it’s going to be evolving and changing until long after we’re all retired. We need good people on the ground and in the office to bring these projects home and meet our climate goals. I think the more veterans we can get working in solar, the better off the industry will be.”
It is estimated that 99 percent of people who will be working in climate by 2030 haven’t begun yet. At CS Energy, we are actively looking for former service members to join our team. Learn more about what a career at CS Energy looks like and take a look at our open positions.