Five reasons electric co-ops are great places to work

by Paul Wesslund

Running electric utilities today takes just about every skill imaginable. Some jobs call for the physical ability to climb a utility pole, the technical know- how to create intricate cybersecurity systems and interpersonal skills of talking with a co-op member about how they can lower their electric bill, while others require the logistical knowledge to get essential equipment delivered through a challenging supply chain.

To highlight this unique industry and the many career paths it offers, here are five ways the unique characteristics of electric co-ops make them a great place to work:

1. Stability. You can count on homes and businesses needing electricity now and in the future. One analysis predicts electricity demand will grow even faster in the 2020s than it has the previous two decades. Energy careers offer excellent benefits and paths for career advancement. Employees typically stay in the industry more than 15 years.

2. Excitement. While utility work is reliable, it’s also at the cutting-edge of innovation. Electrification is the centerpiece of the push for greener energy. The number of electric vehi- cles is doubling every year, which means new workforce skills are needed to figure out how to keep all those vehicles plugged in and charged up. More than $120 billion a year is being spent to modernize the U.S. electric grid to manage new patterns of electricity use. The energy industry is changing, and it’s an exciting time to be part of it.

3. Variety. The skills needed in the utility industry range from advanced college degrees to trade school, apprenticeship and on-the-job training. And the range of positions is staggering—accountants, social media managers, IT specialists, engineers, human resources professionals. There are more unique positions as well, such as drone operators who inspect power lines, data analysts who coordinate the flow of electricity and power plant operators who oversee electricity generation.

4. It’s local. The thing about electricity is that maintaining the service needs to happen nearby. That means that much of the work takes place near your hometown. Not only can a utility worker make a living and raise a family in the place they choose to live, but if they decide to move to another part of the country, there will likely be energy career opportunities there as well.

5. Satisfaction. Any lineworker will tell you there’s no better feeling than knowing the power outage you’ve just restored brought light and heat back into the homes of hundreds of people. The same goes for the utility truck dispatcher back at headquarters and the media specialist getting the word out about the status of power restoration, as well as the system resilience planners who are working to avoid an outage in the first place, and the engineers who are creating an energy system for the future with renewable energy technologies and utility-scale batteries.

Electric co-ops offer a unique business model that’s led by the members who use the electricity—that’s you. It’s a form of business with a commitment to improving the quality of life for the local community, which can call for jobs like partnering with local groups to bring broadband to rural areas, or work that’s as essential and profound as keeping the lights on.

Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56% of the nation’s landscape.