Electric Cooperative Careers
This month my thoughts are on careers at electric cooperatives as we begin to hire our next generation workforce. Nationwide thousands of older electric utility workers are retiring and leaving the workforce during the next five to ten years, who will step up to take their places?
The line technicians you see wearing hard hats and rubber gloves while working on the power line from a bucket truck may be the most visible, but it takes a host of other professions to keep power flowing. From accounting to communications, engineering to human resources, customer/member service to line work, the job opportunities at electric cooperatives are numerous and will become more so as Baby Boomers retire in waves.
By 2017, fifty-five percent of electric co-op CEOs will be eligible for retirement, and the number jumps to 75 percent in 10 years. That's just the top job bracket – other categories of workers are on the way out too, in the next five years:
- 37 percent, senior managers
- 31 percent, supervisors
- 26 percent, system operations employees
- 24 percent, engineers
- 16 percent, "skilled trades," which includes line technicians, equipment operators
- 14 percent, information technology (IT)
This means lots of new positions with opportunities for growth are opening up at co-ops near you. Cooperatives are generally considered to be great places to work, no matter the type of cooperative, because people are put over profits. Electric co-ops, specifically, are not-for-profit businesses, which means they have to generate money in order to operate and meet financial lending requirements, but any extra revenue over and above operating expenses are returned to their member-owners in the form of patronage capital credits.
Training for Next Generation Workers
Retirements have already begun in earnest, and electric cooperatives are in the thick of planning to ensure new employees are equipped to offer top-notch service. Decades of institutional knowledge can't be replaced, but training can provide a solid foundation.
To that end, training programs for line technicians sponsored by or partnered with electric co-ops are available across the state. The Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin is one such example. At this two-year college students can prepare to start a career in electrical power distribution or technical studies for a journey worker. Other co-op career lines of study include: information technology, marketing and communications, human resources, business management and accounting. To find about more career options in the electric utility industry, check out these websites: www.cvtc.edu, www.getintoenergy.com or www.cewd.org.
Programs like these are wins for the co-op, the worker and the local economy. Workers are properly trained and ready to start their new careers on the right foot. Co-ops get employees with a head start and workers start careers with a solid salary and benefits, and advancement opportunities for the future. Some co-ops recruit from technical colleges and universities; it's not uncommon to see new employees who had spent at least one summer as an intern at their local electric cooperative.
Whether you are in high school planning your career track or a more seasoned professional looking for a great career there are opportunities for you in the electric cooperative family.