November 16, 2018

Shortage of trained electricians sparks launch of ReVision Energy's own training center

Courtesy / ReVision Energy
Courtesy / ReVision Energy
ReVision Energy this week officially launched its new ReVision Energy Technical Center to train electricians. Company officials said it needs at least a dozen licensed electricians across its five locations in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts – and more as it expects continued growth.

ReVision Energy couldn't find enough licensed electricians, so it launched its own training center.

The ReVision Energy Technical Center is training 34 students in Maine and 20 in New Hampshire. The students are existing employees hired as so-called "helper electricians," who work under supervision.

ReVision's five New England locations in are looking for up to 15 licensed electricians to staff the company's installation of solar energy systems. The company, which has sites in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, plans to hire two to five licensed electricians per site.

The launch of the ReVision Energy Technical Center apprenticeship program took place at the company's Brentwood, N.H., site and was timed to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week. The program will operate at each of the company's locations.

"What we're trying to do is take control over the fact that licensed electricians are one of the biggest challenges in the renewable energy sector today," ReVision co-founder Phil Coupe told Mainebiz.

ReVision has sites in Portland and Liberty, Maine; Concord and Brentwood, N.H.; and North Andover, Mass.

Critical shortage

The program was developed and is administered by Nathan Poland, ReVision's Brentwood-based electrical coordinator.

"We're in a critical shortage for licensed electricians," Poland told Mainebiz. "We can put all the advertisements out there to try to get licensed people, but there isn't a pool of licensed people just hanging around. So the question was, 'How can we protect ourselves and be able to continue to grow?'"

The new center allows workers to earn while they learn — completing classroom and hands-on training to become certified electricians while earning a wage as an electrical apprentice and employee-owner of ReVision Energy. The program is state-approved in both Maine and New Hampshire, Poland said.


Up to now, Poland explained, helpers could fulfill further licensing requirements through traditional training programs such as those at community colleges. But those programs aren't necessarily user-friendly, he said.

"It was more of a scenario where they had to do a night program, or take off days off work," he said. Plus, training programs aren't necessarily close by.

"So we were trying to come up with an idea that would work better," he continued.

The in-house program leverages the company's four-day-a-week schedule during the slower months of the year, leaving Fridays open. It allows students to do the majority of the bookwork at their leisure, like on the weekend or online, and get direct instruction and hands-on training during the open Fridays. The company was also able to leverage the electrical shops that already exist at each branch. Its licensed electricians serve as instructors.

The program was approved in New Hampshire in July and launched there in September. It was approved in Maine in October and started then.

The program has no capacity limits, he noted.

"It's more based on how big our company is," Poland said. "It's not that we have a hundred seats. It's based on how many employees we have."

"All of our work is heavily dependent on licensed electricians to make sure it gets done properly and make sure it's code-compliant," said Coupe. "In northern New England, in general terms, there are not enough licensed electricians."

The program allows the company to bring on employees who don't yet have the appropriate level of licensure and get them working toward their apprentice status, then toward their journeyman's license and eventually toward a master electrician license, he explained.

In addition to designing and installing solar electric systems and solar hot water systems, ReVision Energy also specializes in the complementary technologies of battery storage, electric vehicle charging stations, heat pumps and microgrids, thereby providing all the tools necessary to drastically reduce, if not eliminate, fossil fuels.

Trajectory of growth

ReVision has 225 employees in three states and continues to hire. Since 2003, the company has installed more than 7,000 clean energy systems in the region along with a rapidly growing network of electric vehicle charging stations.

The company was named the No. 1 Rooftop Solar Installer in New England by Solar Power Industry magazine in September 2017. In 2015, ReVision Energy became a certified B Corp, an official designation that the business is trying to create maximum positive societal impact rather than the traditional approach of maximizing shareholder returns. In 2017, the company converted to 100% employee ownership

In April, ReVision purchased a 26,924-square-foot building at 758 Westbrook St. in South Portland to consolidate its operations and relocate its regional headquarters.

The company had been looking for space since early 2017, investigating a variety of options to accommodate ReVision Energy's growing Portland operations, which are currently spread across a couple different office spaces and at least four different warehouses because the company has outgrown its existing space on Presumpscot Street.

The company expects to move into the space early in 2019. It will include a dedicated space for the training program, Poland noted.


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