Jessica Wagner – Bringing New Energy to a Historic Organization
As an applicant in SEI Solar Professionals Certificate Program, Jessica Wagner has been at SEI’s Training Facility in Paonia, Colorado for 6 weeks and she has impressed everyone with her passion and journey to get here. From the initial classes in Grid-Direct Design and Installation to the Advanced Multi-Mode Systems and energy storage technology, Jess has been engaged and diligent in her coursework and future career in the solar industry. Her interest in solar energy began early, intrigued by the PV modules atop her grandmother’s home, and leading to a third grade paper passionately declaring her intent to become an electrical engineer so she could install solar when she grew up. In fact, Jess did begin school to become an electrical engineer but there were some twists and turns in her journey to become a solar installer.
Sixteen years later, Jess is the mother of three children, living in Metamora, Illinois and bartending at the American Legion Post 1115. It was her job at the American Legion, among other things, that became a major impetus for her to begin her solar installer training. Jess witnessed daily the struggles for the Legion Post to stay open, their membership declined over the years while their expenses kept rising.
She began researching grants to help the legion and quickly found funding sources that utilized solar energy and the associated energy savings to support veterans programs. She knew this was a chance to make a lasting impact for the veterans she’d befriended at the Legion and to revive her long latent passion for solar energy. By beginning solar training, Jess could start a new career and work toward installing a PV system at the Legion, both to reduce their utility costs and (literally) bring some new energy to the organization.
Her choice of solar installer training provider was clear. Jess had been following SEI since 1998 and she didn’t hesitate to enroll. Her mother came from Florida to help care for her children while she travelled to SEI. Asked of her experience jumping into technical training after such a long break she said “I have a bit of an electrical/technical background, but SEI really meets you where you’re at. If you pay attention, you’ll get the knowledge that you need.” She added that she was thankful for the small class sizes and individualized attention as opposed to the huge “solar seminars” for 300 people she’d seen offered by other training providers. “The instructors are totally willing to stay after class to explain something in more detail or go over something in a different way to make sure you understand.” And of her instructors “the instructors are so knowledgeable… I’ve never seen teachers that are so qualified. They’ve been doing [solar] for years. They are in the field. This is their career.”
It was not only the instructors but the lab setting and small town location that drew her to Solar Energy International. About Paonia, Jess fervently recounts “I love it here! It’s a beautiful setting and there’s lots to do. It’s a mellow town where I can focus on my classwork and still go out in the evenings. Being in Paonia makes the learning experience really laid back.” Furthermore she’s had time to get to know her classmates, many of whom are also enrolled in the Solar Professionals Certificate Program. Though they are all enrolled in the same program, they are all coming from different backgrounds and places of experience. The classes and lab experience really allow them to share their knowledge on a peer level, where everyone can share their experience in construction, of previous solar installs, etc, in a really relatable way. Congratulations to Jess and fellow Certificate Track classmates and best of luck on the rest of your solar journeys.
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