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Program helps veterans find civilian jobs in solar energy industry

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – A new program is helping military veterans make the transition to civilian employment, specifically in the solar power industry.

Hill Air Force Base acquires 20 percent of its power from renewable energy sources, like solar panels.

The program trains veterans to work in solar power jobs when they return home from combat or retire from the military.

In 2009, Hill Air Force Base built the largest solar panel farm in Utah, and, last April, during his visit to Utah, President Barack Obama announced a solar energy training initiative to help veterans find jobs when they return home from deployment and enter civilian life.

Some veterans tell FOX 13 they had no prior experience before joining the military.

"I think a lot of us did enlist right out of high school: This has been my career, my life,” Christopher Howe said.

Howe has been with the Air Force for 20 years and is ready to retire.

“This is all I’ve ever really known is active-duty military,” he said.

The program gives veterans like Howe a fair chance to compete in the workforce.

"Right now, the solar industry employs more veterans than any other industry in the country,” said Judy Fisher, a program coordinator at Salt Lake Community College.

Veterans learn an accelerated version of the solar energy program taught at Salt Lake Community College. When they're finished, they can get a variety of jobs across the U.S.

"We know that a lot of the military folks don't stay at the base that they retire from, but there is so much growth across the entire country that they can take these to any state they choose to go back home to,” Fisher said. “They can stay here in Utah, because it’s certainly a growing industry here as well."

The solar ready vets program utilizes skills vets acquire in the military and gives them relevant skills that help them in the job market.

"You know, I have a lot of skills that translate, but there's still holes, you know, with what the civilian industry requires, and this kind of training kind of fills those holes,” Howe said.

Active duty members and vets interested in participating the program can contact the base.

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