After a 24-year career in the Navy, Charles Hystad retired in hopes of finding a rewarding career in a field with potential.

Tidewater Community College provided the path for Hystad, today a project planner for Sunrun, the largest dedicated residential solar company in the nation with offices in 15 states.

Hystad was among the first cohort of graduates of TCC’s Solar Ready Vets program, which prepares transitioning military members for careers in the burgeoning solar energy field. That’s an industry expected to add 36,000 full-time workers every year for the next five to seven years.

“It really was a great program,” he said. “They brought in the best of the best as far as instructors, so the educational side of it wasn’t a problem at all.”

TCC partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy and Navy Region Mid-Atlantic last summer for the pilot program on the Chesapeake Campus that guaranteed sailors would have employment interviews with up to five solar companies during a five-week training period.

Hystad lined up his job at Sunrun through one of those interviews. “That part was really helpful, because it would have really been a hassle otherwise,” he said. “TCC brought employers to us, and ultimately the branch manager hired me.”

Initially a permit coordinator, Hystad received a promotion to his current position after three months. He secured a job two weeks after his Aug. 31 graduation.

“Part of why it worked for me was it had the aspect of being what I really wanted as far as setting myself up for success after class,” said the former Leading Chief Petty Officer on the USS Newport News, who spent much of his career in sonar technology.

Six cohorts or 90 transitioning military overall have completed Solar Ready Vets at TCC; since tracking began last February, the program boasts a 95 percent pass rate on the certification exam.

Solar Ready Vets was a great stepping stone for a seamless transition from the Navy into the civilian work force,” Hystad said. “Everything I learned in the program applies to my current job.”

He’d recommend Solar Ready Vets to any transitioning military, noting, “Go for it. It doesn’t matter what rating you are in the Navy. There’s something for you in the solar industry.”

Two additional Solar Ready Vets training sessions at TCC are set to begin Sept. 24 and Oct. 12. For information, contact Chris Blow at TCC’s Center for Military and Veterans Education at 757-822-7725 orcblow@tcc.edu.