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SolarCity begins its hunt for factory workers

SolarCity is beginning its search for entry-level production workers. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News file photo)

Nearly 2 1/2 years after plans were first announced for a solar panel factory in South Buffalo, SolarCity is starting to look for its first production workers.

The company is holding a series of information sessions over the next two weeks to try to drum up interest in entry level positions at the massive solar panel factory on South Park Avenue.

The positions include manufacturing specialists, shipping and receiving clerks and material handlers, said Kady Cooper, a SolarCity spokeswoman.

The company isn't saying how much the positions will pay. It also isn't saying how many workers it plans to bring on in its first wave of hiring as the company prepares to begin production during the first half of next year.

"We don’t have a final number for the first wave," Cooper said. "We’re trying to assess what the entry-level landscape looks like first."

The first hires for those entry-level production jobs likely will be made sometime next year, Cooper said. But the company is expected to begin accepting applications for those positions within a few days, through its website.

"The pay range is at market value and comparable to other local companies in the area," Cooper said.

SolarCity, which has about 40 employees in Buffalo, has moved its administrative staff from its temporary location in Larkinville into new offices in the 1 million-square-foot factory, which is being built with $750 million in state funding through the Buffalo Billion economic development program.

Nearly all of the construction work has been completed on the factory. SolarCity plans to start installing production equipment in the factory, which will cost more than $900 million, by early next year.

The factory will be the largest solar panel production facility in the Western Hemisphere, with the capacity to produce nearly 10,000 solar panels each day once it reaches full production. SolarCity has promised to hire 1,460 workers in the Buffalo Niagara region at the factory and other company operations here. The company, now part of Tesla Motors, also has pledged to bring another 1,440 new jobs to the region through its suppliers and vendors who provide services to the factory.

SolarCity also has job postings on its website for 27 other positions, largely engineering or manager jobs, that it is seeking to fill.

The information sessions, being held in conjunction with the state Labor Department, will include background on the solar industry, solar manufacturing and the hiring process, Cooper said.

Once candidates submit their application through the website, they will be asked to take The Adult Basic Education test, which measures reading and math comprehension. After that, the company will conduct phone and in-person interviews with the remaining applicants. The final step in the job screening process will be a manual dexterity assessment, Cooper said.

Applicants who attend one of the meetings also will be emailed the job posting from the Labor Department so they can schedule the reading and math screening.

Other jobs that SolarCity will be looking to fill in the coming months include process and equipment engineers, operations supervisors, facilities technicians/engineers, equipment maintenance personnel, environmental health and safety personnel and administrative/accounting/information technology positions.

The SolarCity workforce information sessions will be held at these sites:

  • Thursday - 10 a.m., Edward Saunders Community Center, 2777 Bailey Ave., Buffalo.

  • Friday - 1 p.m., Second Baptist Church, 18 Church St., Lackawanna.

  • Monday - 10 a.m., Buffalo Employment & Training Center, 77 Goodell St., Buffalo.

  • Monday - 2 p.m., Erie Community College North Campus, 6205 Main St., 166 Gleasner Building, Amherst.

  • Dec. 13 - 1 p.m., Martha Mitchell Community Center, 175 Oakmont Ave., Buffalo.

  • Dec. 19 - 10 a.m., State Labor Department Williamsville Career Center, Transitown Plaza, Main Street and Transit Road, Williamsville.

  • Dec. 19 - 5 p.m., Mt. Olive Baptist Church, 710 E. Delevan Ave., Buffalo.

  • Dec. 20 - 10 a.m., The Belle Community Center, 104 Maryland St., Buffalo.

  • Dec. 20 - 2 p.m., Buffalo Employment & Training Center, 77 Goodell St., Buffalo.

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