North Carolina Electric Cooperatives Provide Skills to Ensure a Workforce Ready Future

woman in bucket truck

February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month. In addition to providing power to 2.5 million North Carolinians, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives also serve our communities by providing educators and schools with the resources they need to give students of all ages the skills that will help them succeed in the workforce.

“Focusing on workforce development in the communities we serve is key to the economic success of all of North Carolina,” said Nelle Hotchkiss, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Association Services for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “As jobs evolve and technologies advance, cooperatives are providing resources that support academic, technical and employability skills to position students for success in their chosen careers.”

Two of the many ways North Carolina’s electric cooperatives support CTE are through the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership, and the Electric Lineman Technology Program at Nash Community College.

woman in bucket truck

2018 Jones-Onslow EMC Kenan Fellow Kari Cobb rides in a bucket truck during her summer fellowship.

Through Kenan Fellows, electric cooperatives equip educators with the skills and information they need to help students see the real-world application of the lessons they learn in the classrooms.

Kari Cobb, a career and technical educator at Northside High School in Onslow County, said her fellowship with Jones-Onslow EMC confirmed that students need to gain real-world skills, including soft skills, in order to be ready for the workforce. It also opened her eyes to how many careers were available in the electric industry.

“We had lineman come out last week to show these children that a four-year degree is wonderful, but that doesn’t mean that you are career ready,” said Cobb. “My experience has really helped to confirm that I need to look at each child as an individual, and now I’m a huge advocate that people need to grow where they are. There are some phenomenal careers out there, but in order to do them, you need to be career ready.”

At Nash Community College, N.C. electric cooperatives have established job training and safety programs for linemen entering the field, and for those who are looking to advance their education. Through the Electric Lineman Technology Program, cooperative linemen can receive a Third Class Certificate, Advanced Certificate, Diploma or an Associate’s degree. Participants attend week-long “schools” at the college where they learn skills such as underground and overhead line construction. Courses are held in the classroom, as well as outdoors on a specially designed training field. Upon completion of the certificate, participants can then choose to advance their education and apply their credit towards an Associate of Applied Science Degree through Nash Community College.

Approximately 400 co-op employees attended the electric cooperatives job training programs at Nash Community College in 2018. Since the program began in 1998, 22 co-op linemen have graduated with their Associates Degree.