Solar Energy International (SEI) is proud to welcome Noel Wichman into SEI’s alumni network. Noel has the distinction of being the first student to utilize his Veterans Benefits to enroll in classes at SEI. Living just 10 miles away from SEI’s Campus in Paonia, CO, Noel’s drive to SEI was short but his journey to solar training was long. Noel’s interest been interested in the solar industry for two decades but only recently began solar installation training.
The impetus of SEI accepting Veterans Benefits for in-person classroom and hands-on lab training through SEI’s Solar Professionals Certificate Program (SPCP) was a marked turning point in his journey. Previously, Noel spent 13 years as active duty in the U.S. Air Force before working for a mining company in Colorado. Now, however, the time was ripe for a career transition. “I’ve always had a great interest in solar and it seems like the time is right for the whole industry…For better or for worse, solar is becoming more prominent in the energy industry and meeting the energy needs of the world.”
He chose to come to SEI to begin his career because of their longstanding reputation as a solar training provider and their commitment to hands-on education. “I’ve known about SEI for many, many years and the changes in the solar industry since I was first interested, which is almost 20 years ago, to now have been leaps and bounds. I need to be up to speed. From a practical perspective, hands-on experience with instructors who that have book knowledge and hands-on experience in the field, how can you beat that?”
And utilizing his Veterans Benefits was easier than expected. Speaking of his experience, Noel recounted that ““all I had to do to enroll using my GI bill funding at SEI was to give them my VA paperwork, saying how much I was approved for, 100% in my case, and everything else they did. We had a phone call for the courses and when I’d like to start and then it was hands off” In fact, though Noel was the first student to enroll using Veterans Benefits, there were several more who followed suit in his class alone.
For the other veterans and active duty military personnel looking forward in their careers? Noel highly recommended SEI’s solar installer training because of the straightforward enrollment process and engaging learning environment. When asked if he thought their was a place in the solar industry for members of the military Noel says: “I think there’s a lot of changes in the military in terms of environmental concerns where solar training would be very conducive to a future career in the military still, let alone afterwards. No question.”
And for anyone else starting a new career, Noel “would recommend any kind of hands-on training to get your start in any industry, especially the solar industry. Nothing beats experience. Book learning is great. Hands-on is better.”
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