Co-op Careers Offer a Paycheck and a Purpose
By Justin LaBerge, NRECA
Every day in this country, more than 75,000 men and women go to work at America’s electric cooperatives to keep the lights on for 42 million energy consumers in 47 states.
It’s challenging work, but in addition to a paycheck, co-op employees go home each night knowing they’ve helped make their communities better places to live.
Over the next five years, thousands of new workers will get to experience that sense of purpose and pride as America’s electric cooperatives hire nearly 15,000 employees nationwide. These new hires will replace baby boomers reaching retirement age and accommodate organic growth in the energy industry.
For most people who think about electric cooperative employees, a lineworker high atop a pole comes to mind. It’s true that lineworkers comprise the largest segment of the co-op workforce (approximately 25 percent), but it takes a variety of talents to keep a cooperative running smoothly.
Information technology and engineering are two rapidly growing career opportunities at co-ops. The need for more high-tech workers is driven by the shift to a smarter electric grid and the growth of renewable energy sources that must be carefully monitored and managed.
Other in-demand career paths at electric cooperatives include finance, member services, equipment operators, energy advisors, communications and marketing, purchasing, administrative support and human resources.
But what if your local co-op is fully staffed and doesn’t anticipate any openings in the near future? Many jobs, especially lineworkers, equipment operators and similar roles, are available through regional and national contractors.
These contractors are typically hired to supplement local utility crews to help build large projects or repair widespread storm damage. They move from project to project over time, offering employees a chance to see different parts of the country.
They provide a great option for individuals who would like to join their hometown co-op when a position becomes available, but want to start working immediately.
Also, while the energy industry offers many rewarding careers to recent high school and college graduates, it is also a great place to start a second or third career.
Lineworker training programs offered through community colleges are growing in popularity among people who previously worked in oil and gas, manufacturing, mining, forestry and other similar industries.
Electric cooperatives are also eager to hire military veterans and their spouses. Last year, America’s electric cooperatives launched a program called “Serve Our Co-ops; Serve Our Country” to honor and hire veterans and their spouses.