Getting to the Top of the Solar Industry

After graduating from Solar Works DC, Dante Gray aims for more

As a foreman at New Columbia Solar (NCS), Dante Gray has plenty of things that keep him busy. But in between those tasks, his real growth occurs.

“You can’t build up until you build yourself up,” Dante explained from inside a warehouse during a recent cloudy spring day. It was a slow afternoon without any pressing tasks. Yet he was studying hard, learning about new solar technologies and preparing to gain a new NABCEP solar certification. 

After only one year in the solar industry, Dante’s career has taken flight. He started as a roof lead at NCS before getting promoted to foreman. Now he’s aiming to become a construction manager, which motivates him to keep learning every day. 

“My mindset is that solar is the future — the present and the future,” Dante says. “I want to be one of the ones at the top. I don’t want to be in the background.” 

Dante’s solar journey began in 2022. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, he had been working in pest control as part of his reentry process. Then he was laid off.

Looking to restart his career, he went to the DC Infrastructure Academy, where a program administrator recommended he join Solar Works DC. Dante didn’t know a thing about solar when he joined the program.

“What grabbed my attention was the instructors,” Dante said. GRID’s workforce training supervisors made him feel comfortable learning. He bought in and listened to what they had to say. Before long, he was showing up excited to learn each day and researching even more on his own after class.

Then one day he looked up the potential salaries in solar.

“When I saw how much you can make in solar, my toenails grew half an inch,” Dante said. 

Just months after joining the staff at NCS, Dante was trusted to oversee the company’s work installing solar panels at the Naylor Road Metro Station. His leadership and problem solving on that project impressed his company and showed he had the mentality to take on a bigger role. 

Dante said the word “no” isn’t in his work vocabulary. If a piece doesn’t fit, it’s not because it can’t fit—it’s because no one has found a way to make it fit. 

“The only way a mess-up remains a mess-up is if you aren’t enthusiastic about fixing it,” he said.

Dante's problem-solving skills came from within. So did his motivation and drive. But he's grateful for GRID and Solar Works DC, which showed him how his skills could build a successful career.

"I gotta give it to GRID," Dante said. "Without it, I wouldn't be where I am today." 

Dante (left) holds his Solar Works DC graduation certificate along with the GRID Mid-Atlantic workforce training staff

Dante joined the solar workforce—you can too.

Solar Works DC trainees learn the skills needed to get into the solar industry. The program includes hands-on training, soft skills development, case management services, and job placement support after graduation.
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Solar Works DC is part of DOEE’s Solar for All program. Solar for All seeks to provide the benefits of solar energy to 100,000 low-income households and reduce their energy bills by 50% by 2032. The program, which was established by the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Expansion Amendment Act of 2016, is funded by the Renewable Energy Development Fund (REDF).