- The CEO of Alternative Energy Southeast said that job seekers keep skipping their interviews.
- Montana Busch said that he'd raised starting wages, but that he was struggling to recruit staff.
- "It's very much an employee's market right now," he told Insider.
The CEO of a solar-panel company said that job seekers aren't turning up to their interviews.
Montana Busch, CEO of Alternative Energy Southeast in northern Georgia, told Insider that he had recently scheduled interviews with eight candidates for a job as an electrician, but only two showed up.
Amid a huge labor shortage, companies across the US are increasingly competing with each other for personnel. Some are hiking pay and offering improved benefits to attract new workers as well as retain existing ones. But many have also had to slash their operations because they simply can't find enough staff.
Busch's industry has had to work hard to attract new starters in the past, he says, but the pandemic has made the challenge even tougher. His firm is among the many that are struggling to recruit new staff, with some business owners telling Insider that as many as 90% of candidates don't turn up to job interviews, and some quit soon after being hired. One taco-restaurant owner said he was "basically hiring anyone that would show up."
Busch said that Alternative Energy Southeast had 25 employees but would ideally like 10 more.
"There's just an unlimited amount of work in solar," he said, adding that demand is surging because customers want installation work completed before the end of the fiscal year so they can claim tax credits.
Busch said that he'd raised starting wages to around $13 an hour for new solar installer hires with no experience, and to $16 or $17 for people with some experience in the construction industry. He said he also offered healthcare and paid holidays.
But one of the biggest obstacles was that job seekers don't realize that you don't need a college degree to work in the solar industry, Busch said.
"Solar is something that can be done right out of high school," he said. "There seems to be an impetus that you have to go to college to get a good paying job, and that's just not true."
Solar installers can undertake an apprenticeship or get on-the-job training, Busch said. But solar installers need at least a year of training and supervision before they can work completely independently, meaning companies can't immediately deploy new hires on installations by themselves, he said. This meant that fixing the industry's labor shortage was a slow process, he said.
Despite the company's hiring problems, Busch said that Alternative Energy Southeast had a low attrition rate.
"It's very much an employee's market right now where they have all the power, they can demand raises and companies, they have to give it to them, or that employee can probably go somewhere else and get more money if they want to," Busch said. "We've been able to avoid that for the most part just by treating our staff well."
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has set a target for solar to reach 30% of US electricity generation by 2030. To achieve this, the industry, which had a workforce of around 230,000 in 2020, needs around 800,000 more workers, per the association.
"Hiring has been a challenge for a decade but the pandemic exacerbated it to the extreme," Matthew Messer, the owner of New York Solar Maintenance, told Insider in July. "We're all competing for an already small labor pool."
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