Back in 1991, he was just a kid — fresh out of high school and looking for a summer job before starting college in the fall. At 18 years old, he began working part time for his local electric co-op — the same one that served his family with electric power. After several months of helping with everything from sweeping floors and painting the warehouse to serving as a “gopher” for office staff, he learned enough to know that he liked the place (and his co-workers) a lot.
He returned every summer and worked part time during the school year while attending college. Upon graduation, he applied for a position as a general accountant and was hired full time. More than 30 years later, this same young man is now one of two vice presidents at this same co-op in East Tennessee.
Now, while it’s certainly true that not every entry-level co-op hire will ascend to upper management, the fact is, your local electric cooperative is an outstanding place to work — and, more importantly, to build a career.
If I were giving vocational advice to a young person, I would not hesitate to recommend a Tennessee electric cooperative as a place of employment. (And that’s not just because I happen to serve members as a CEO.)
For one thing, co-ops are “hometown” companies. They exist to serve your family, friends and neighbors. A young person who prefers to live and work in the local community can do just that by pursuing a co-op career. It’s an industry with good-paying wages and exceptional benefits.
Electric cooperatives employ people with an amazingly wide range of skills — from folks who help keep the IT systems in order to those who maintain the electrical infrastructure to employees who help market energy efficiency programs to individuals who keep those big trucks running. No matter where your interests lie and regardless of your educational level, chances are there’s a co-op job that you would qualify for and love.
No job is guaranteed indefinitely, of course, but a position at an electric cooperative is about as stable as they come. Because the energy we distribute is essential to virtually every area of modern life, we’re not as vulnerable to economic downturns as many other sectors. We’re in it for the long haul, and hard-working, dedicated people will have many opportunities for advancement.
I’ve saved the best reason to consider working at a co-op for last. If you believe in giving back to your community, a co-op career is an excellent way to do just that. Our business model is built around seven principles that govern the way we operate. Among other things, we believe in doing our part to help local economies, we are heavily involved in educating students and the general public, and we focus on the sustainable development of our communities through policies supported by our members.
Some folks go every day to jobs that pay the bills. People who work for electric co-ops experience a deeper level of satisfaction that comes from knowing that what they do really matters. If someone you know is looking for a rewarding job in your community, you might suggest that he or she check out the electric cooperative. It’s more than just a way to make a living; it’s a way to make a difference.