What’s the hottest hiring sector in field service? Solar installation — backed by hot companies like soon-to-IPO Solar City — is making a strong case heading into 2013.  A new report from The Solar Foundation shows that the number of solar installer job openings this year jumped 17.5% over 2011, a gain of more than 57,000 jobs.

The study also projects that solar manufacturing jobs will grow 9% in 2013 — picking up from a 21% slump in 2012. Andrea Luecke, executive director of the foundation, pointed to increased global competition on solar panel manufacturers as the primary reason for the recent hiring slowdown in manufacturing. But competition is bringing prices down for consumers, which, in turn, has meant big business for installation and service companies and resellers — a point underscored by the recent news that Solar City is planning on raising $200 million in an upcoming IPO.

“The price of solar has declined very sharply the last few years,” Luecke says. “And those price declines are pinching manufacturers, who have to operate at tighter margins, but fueling a huge boom in the installation subsection. And that means more jobs downstream.” The good news for service technicians is that all those new solar panels going up on roofs across the country will require upkeep and maintenance over many years — promising more jobs for maintenance crews down the road.

“As the number of installs increases, we’re seeing more systems going up that are going to last 25, 30, 40 years,” Luecke says. “So as these systems mature we’re going to see a huge call for operations and maintenance people. O&M is going to be a lot more important.”

More: Despite High Unemployment, Trade Jobs Remain Unfilled.

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ABOUT Ian Stewart

Avatar photoIan is a veteran journalist who has covered sports for various news outlets. Previously, he was managing editor for an electronic-book publishing company and a public relations writer.