pexels pixabay 433308

FastForward Program Can Launch a Career in a Fast-Growing, Meaningful Industry 

Virginia needs about 40,000 hires over the next decade to build the solar capacity required to comply with the Virginia Clean Economy Act and support private industries wanting to use renewable energy resources.  

“It’s really an all-hands-on-deck situation that needs people of all education levels” said David Peterson, the executive director of The Solar Hands-On Instructional Network of Excellence, SHINE, which prepares Virginia to meet these demands.  

SHINE, a partner of the Virginia Community College System and its Virginia Infrastructure Academy program, is a public-private partnership nonprofit dedicated to building innovative career pathways in Virginia. It’s an intermediary between academia and industry to help bridge the gap between solar job demand and the supply of workers in Virginia who can fulfill those needs. 

The sky’s the limit 

SHINE provides students with the skills for a career in solar energy, an industry with incredible opportunities, growth and upward mobility. In the next decade, there will be five times the amount of solar capacity installed in Virginia as we have today. A career in solar energy equips people with skills they can take anywhere in the world. 

“We haven’t seen a dynamic environment that has this much transformational impact in our lifetimes and probably won’t in any other industry,” Peterson said. 

Beyond the opportunities, working in solar allows people to work in a meaningful industry where an impact can be made. 

“You can feel as if you’re making a real contribution to the welfare of the planet,” Peterson said.  


Programs a part of FastForward, like SHINE, provide those who don’t have the freedom or opportunity to spend the time and resources on a four-year education to gain valuable and marketable skills, which helps many quickly find employment upon receiving their credentials.  

“It’s an amazing vehicle for making career skills training accessible to all,” Peterson said. “Our program relies heavily on the support that our students can gain from FastForward, and we highly value what that represents to us and them.” 

The value of community college 

Peterson notes that the role of a community college in Virginia has evolved and been elevated to a place it deserves, viewed as a valuable, viable option to obtain a quality education and marketable life skills.  

“You can lead a good and prosperous life with the skills and abilities you gain from a community college environment,” Peterson added. “For many people, that’s all they need to live well and to support families in long and enduring careers.” 

Peterson urged people to recognize the value VCCS represents to the Commonwealth. 

“It is a very, very important part of our educational and cultural identity, and I think it’s high time that people give it the credit that it deserves,” Peterson concluded.