Friday, August 20, 2010

Solar Energy Jobs Look Bright

The state of the job market could perhaps be gauged by the age of the applicants at a solar job fair last week in New Paltz, NY.

Heads of salt-and-pepper hair bobbed from table to table in well-appointed suits, resumes in hand. Among them, a few heads of brown or blond weaved, then darted quickly out.

Now hiring:

The companies at The Solar Energy Consortium's second annual job fair:

Axio Power, Fala Technologies, Farm to Table, IBM, Mercury Solar Systems, Precision Flow Technologies, Prism Solar Technologies, Selux, Solartech Renewables, SpectraWatt, SunMaxx, SunWize, Taylor Recycling, and Veeco

By the end of the day, some 300 people had turned out for The Solar Energy Consortium's second annual job fair at SUNY New Paltz.

Fourteen companies were on hand to hire for about 140 positions — jobs like engineers, technicians, project managers and analysts.

Kingston resident Norman Jette was among the job-seekers. He's been unemployed since being laid off from HFC Finance in March 2009.

"There are so many people who are so highly qualified looking today, it makes it harder to stand out," he said. "But I think having varied skill sets is important and will help."

Solar technology is an industry that's growing, even in the recession. By the end of 2010, the region will have 500 new solar jobs, said Vince Cozzolino, CEO of the consortium.

"In this lousy economy," he said. "If the mindset of this country will just shift a little bit toward renewable energy, the solar market is going to increase exponentially, and we in the Hudson Valley are going to grow the economy significantly."

The economy needs it.

Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Dutchess counties have lost about 13,500 manufacturing jobs in the past decade, according to the state Labor Department.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, who helped create the consortium and attended the job fair Friday, thinks the solar industry could create thousands more jobs in the region.

Bill Jordan, project manager for Axio Power, said that if the state would create a renewable energy incentive program like the one in New Jersey — where power companies must buy excess energy from individuals — the industry would create even more jobs.

"If we get that change, we're going to have a lot more solar energy installed," he said.

Many of the job-seekers Friday were former employees of IBM and NXP, which laid off large numbers from their Dutchess County plants.

Michael Farrington, a Plattekill resident, has worked for IBM, Royal Philips Electronics and NXP. He was laid off when NXP closed in July 2009.

He's working for a temp agency now (where he took a 60 percent pay cut), but he wants to get back into his field, equipment repairs and production management.

"My thing is to stay employed and keep meeting people until I get a better job and get back to where I was," he said.


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