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A cooperative career

I’ve always believed that electric cooperatives are the best place in the world to work. Now, it would seem, is the best time ever to start a cooperative career.

That’s because electric cooperatives nationwide are seeing an unprecedented turnover in their workforce. In the next five years, electric cooperatives could be hiring replacements for 14,400 retiring employees.

That trend holds true in Missouri as well. Of the state’s 4,455 electric cooperative employees, 15 percent will be eligible for retirement by 2021. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many job openings around the state.

Recent listings included an electrical engineer for Sac-Osage Electric, a communicator at Boone Electric, a customer service rep at Three Rivers Electric and an IT manager at Farmers’ Electric.

This comes at a time when the rural workforce is shrinking in many counties. So where will the next generation of cooperative employees be found? That’s a question concerned CEOs have been asking since this issue appeared on the horizon several years ago.

And cooperative leaders at the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association have been working on some innovative solutions to find the best and brightest employees.

For example, this year AMEC will launch its LED Academy, which stands for “Leadership, Excellence and personal Development.” This program is designed to create the next generation of leaders for Missouri’s electric cooperatives, preparing them to meet whatever challenges may face their systems in the future.

Years ago, Missouri’s electric cooperatives worked to help build the lineman training program at the State Technical College of Missouri in Linn, ensuring there were enough of these essential personnel to keep the power flowing.

Our national association also has identified another excellent source of talent to fill these jobs: veterans. Every year, thousands of highly skilled armed forces veterans transition out of the military in search of civilian jobs. These soldiers, sailors and air men and women are as diverse in their backgrounds as they are in their skills.

Best of all, 44 percent of those in service to our country come from rural areas and want to come home if they can. Veterans also share many of the same values cooperatives do: love of country, service to others and work ethic.

With this in mind, NRECA launched its “Serve our Co-ops, Serve our Country” program designed to create a coalition of electric cooperatives with the shared goal of helping military professionals — and their spouses — find jobs in rural communities. Where possible, these cooperatives will try to match transitioning veterans to employment opportunities as they have job openings.

The program was launched in January, and the first veteran hired through it begins work in June.

An electric cooperative career matches the desires of many members of the millennial generation, who rank businesses that serve others high on their list of desirable places to work. After all, electric cooperatives exist only to provide a service to members.

So how does one connect with a cooperative career? The first place to start is online at www.TouchstoneEnergy.com. Here you can learn about the cooperative difference and decide if a cooperative career is right for you. If so, the site offers links to available jobs and tools that let you post a resume and set job alerts.

A cooperative career is about more than a paycheck. It comes with the benefit of working in the country and the satisfaction of knowing your efforts directly benefit your community.

- Barry Hart

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