Co-op Partnerships Enhance Workforce Training and Development

February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, an opportunity to celebrate curriculum and educational programs that place students in the center of the action, delivering real-world skills and readiness for college and rewarding careers. Because electric cooperatives are embedded in the rural communities we serve, we are committed to helping those communities thrive, now and for generations to come. Advancing workforce training and development – through Bright Ideas grants, partnerships with schools, and support for professional development opportunities – remains a key element of achieving our Brighter Future vision.

“Developing the workforce for our current and future needs is key to building a Brighter Future for NC’s electric cooperatives and our state,” said Dana Davis, vice president of human resources at North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “We are proud to support programs that provide resources that reach directly into our communities to support higher learning, job training and interest in STEM careers.”

Bright Ideas Education Grants
North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives help light up learning in classrooms across the state through the Bright Ideas education grant program. Bright Ideas education grants advance excellence in education and accelerate student learning by providing funding to exceptional teachers for innovative, hands-on projects, including those in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Since the program’s inception in 1994, Bright Ideas grants have awarded approximately $15 million to North Carolina educators, funding more than 14,200 K-12 classroom projects and benefiting over 3.5 million students statewide.

Tri-County EMC hosted 2020–2021 Kenan Fellow, Erica Levai.

Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership
Since 2014, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have partnered with the Kenan Fellows Program at N.C. State University, which empowers educators to make real-world learning and career-readiness connections to STEM lessons for students. A year-long professional development and leadership opportunity, fellowships embed teachers within a local business so they can learn from industry experts and gain a deeper understanding of the local workforce and employment opportunities in their region. North Carolina co-ops have hosted nine Kenan Fellows with a tenth educator set to join the 2023-2024 fellows cohort this summer.

Lineman Training Academy at Nash Community College
North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are also investing in the future of lineworkers across the state. Lineworkers provide a critical service in building and maintaining the power grid, and North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are dedicated to furthering workforce training and development for lineworkers. Since 1998, NC’s electric cooperatives have been partnering with Nash Community College, which operates the Lineman Training Academy. The program provides job and safety training for lineworkers entering the field, and for those who are looking to advance their education.

Chris VanLokeren, chief information officer for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, meets with UNCP computer science students to talk about internships and industry best practices. Photo credit: Jeff Frederick, UNC Pembroke.

UNC Pembroke Computer Science Partnership
A partnership between North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) has provided an expanding group of students with job-ready skills in computer science and cybersecurity – addressing a growing need for highly trained tech workers in rural North Carolina and beyond. In 2019, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives committed $75,000 to UNCP over three years to create a dedicated cybersecurity computer lab and enhance computer science programming that will serve a diverse field of students for years to come.

Electric cooperatives across the state also routinely coordinate and participate in local career fairs aimed at educating members and the community on the skills and training necessary for today’s workforce. To learn more about how North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are building a brighter future through education and workforce development, visit