Students prepare for jobs in the solar energy field

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) Miguel Colon grew up in Buffalo, and graduated from McKinley High School’s Career and Technical Education program in 2015. While some of his high school peers are trying to find ways to pay for college, he’s getting ready to make money as an electrician.

“Not everybody has the money to pay for one of these big end colleges, so vocational is basically the same thing as a college, except, you know, you get paid,” said Colon about his time in the electrical program.

Colon will join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 41, and he already has an advantage because he knows about solar power.
John Serra has been teaching in the Buffalo School District for 30 years. He went through training with Montante Solar Company so he can teach his students about renewable energy.
“You can actually see the power that we’re making and that gets the kids excited to see us putting power back into the building and back into the grid,”  explained Serra about the rooftop solar panels he uses in his classroom.
By the time students are seniors, they have enough entry level skills to find work at any company installing solar panels.
“I teach them the electrical theory behind setting these systems up, how to take these panels and connect them in a series or in a parallel or combination circuits. They basically learn how to size a system to meet the customers application, how much electricity they’re using,” said Serra about his curriculum.
The students will also see the installation process first-hand this year. Montante Solar will install a 3KW system on the roof of McKinley High School in the fall, and the electrical program students will have the opportunity to shadow the workers.
The Buffalo School district is also working on finalizing a P-Tech 3 grant with Solar City. Kathy Heinle is the Director of the Career and Technical Education program for the district. As she explained, “It’s a competitive grant through the state. South Park High School is a block away from Solar City. We had Solar City sign onto it, and Erie Community College, which is a partner with Solar City, signed on as well.” This grant would pay for student education at South Park High School in the solar industry, and would also pay for them to complete and associates degree at ECC. Finally, it would put them first-in-line for a job manufacturing solar panels at Solar City. The district is waiting for state approval for the grant.
In the meantime, students like Miguel Colon are excited to start a career, and start making money. His teacher, Mr. Serra, is excited for him too.
He said, “They tell me thank you, and I tell them don’t thank me. All I did was get you interested, you did all the work yourself.”

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