MylesThis is third in Insider’s series, From Laid Off to Learning. To read more inspiring stories, check back here each Monday or subscribe now.

It’s not always easy to hit the ground running after a layoff, but for Myles Falvella, 58, of Pittsburgh, PA, it was his only option. With his retirement looming in another decade or so, Falvella wanted to find work in a field that would not only continue to pay the bills, but that would pose some interesting challenges for him as well.

Falvella, a former employee in the telecommunications industry, knew a layoff at his company would affect him eventually, so he had time to prepare for his next step, which was to go back to school to learn about alternative energy. After he received his pink slip, Falvella enrolled in the Solar Panel Installation & Maintenance Certification course at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). The 13-week course serves as an  introduction to photovoltaic (PV) systems and is offered at other schools throughout the state. It is part of the expanding CCAC Green Institute, which works to prepare students for environmentally-friendly careers.

solarpower“I really enjoy being on a leading-edge [regarding] what’s going on in alternative energy,” says Falvella. At CCAC, he is learning about PV panel installation and maintenance, but Falvella’s ultimate goal is to establish a business in the alternative industry with some of his like-minded friends. Falvella would like to work with residential customers, helping them to determine greener, more energy-efficient ways of living in their homes.

Falvella’s home state of Pennsylvania is a great place for his business ideas: the state is on the fast-track to becoming as environmentally friendly as it can. It currently offers solar power tax incentives to homeowners to the tune of a 65% tax credit, including 30% at the federal level. The reason Falvella returned to the classroom was less of a credential to add to his resume and more of a way to better understand a burgeoning industry.

“I think it helps to get a good handle on the overall opportunity,” Falvella says, noting that he’s not the only one there to gauge the opportunity. While many of his classmates are in the construction industry, working to take their experience to the next level in their current professions, there are other students who, like him, recognize a future in the alternative energy industry.

Going back to school was a logical choice for Falvella, and while he believes education can also help many others who have been laid off, he suggests that they first think long and hard about what it is that they want to study when they return to campus. Many people believe that a degree program is the only way to go, and while it is certainly one way to advance in one’s career, there is much to be said for taking a single class or enrolling in a non-degree certificate program.

Most importantly, Falvella believes that returning students should choose a discipline that will get them excited to begin a new phase in their professional lives.

“In my case, I took what I was comfortable with,” says Falvella of his choice to go “green” in his studies. “This course was dead-on with what I needed.”

~Barbara Bellesi

DO IT NOW: Read more of Insider’s series, From Laid Off to Learning.

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