Co-op careers offer paycheck and a purpose

Every day in this country, more than 75,000 men and women go to work at America’s electric cooperatives to keep the lights on for 42 million energy consumers in 47 states.

It’s challenging work, but in addition to a paycheck, co-op employees go home each night knowing they’ve helped make their communities better places to live.

Over the next five years, thousands of workers will get to experience that sense of purpose and pride as America’s electric cooperatives hire nearly 15,000 employees nationwide. These new hires will replace Baby Boomers reaching retirement age and accommodate organic growth in the energy industry.

Despite competitive wages, excellent benefits, job stability and rewarding work, electric cooperatives and other energy companies often have a difficult time attracting new employees.

One reason for this recruiting challenge is a lack of awareness among potential new hires. To overcome this challenge, America’s electric cooperatives have joined forces with other energy companies to celebrate Careers in Energy Week.

The event, which runs October 17 through 21, is an opportunity for co-ops to promote their career opportunities and correct common misconceptions about jobs in the energy industry.

Many career options

A lineworker high atop a pole is the first image that comes to mind for most people who think about electric cooperative employees. It’s true that lineworkers comprise the largest segment of the co-op workforce – approximately 25 percent – but it takes a variety of talents to keep a cooperative running smoothly.

Information technology and engineering are two rapidly growing career opportunities at co-ops. The need for more high-tech workers is driven by the shift to a smarter electric grid and the growth of renewable energy sources that must be carefully monitored and managed.

Other in-demand career paths at electric cooperatives include finance, member services, equipment operators, energy advisors, communications and marketing, purchasing, administrative support and human resources.

Hundreds of co-ops. One purpose.

For people who enjoy the rural quality of life but want to explore other parts of the country, an electric cooperative career might be the perfect option. There are more than 900 electric cooperatives in the United States, and combined they serve 75 percent of the nation’s land mass.

Co-op lines stretch across every region, climate and geographic feature America has to offer, and each cooperative reflects the character of the community it serves. No matter what living situation and work environment prospective employees might be seeking, they’re sure to find it somewhere in the electric cooperative network.

Who says you can’t go home?

Although the national statistics are impressive, it doesn’t mean much to a job seeker if his or her local co-op is fully staffed and doesn’t anticipate any openings in the near future. Many jobs – especially lineworkers, equipment operators and other similar roles – are available through regional and national contractors.

These contractors are typically hired to supplement local utility crews to help build large projects or repair widespread storm damage. They move from project to project over time, offering employees a chance to see different parts of the country.

They provide a great option for individuals who would like to join their hometown co-op when a position becomes available, but want to start working in the energy industry immediately.

Second careers

2016_10_sw_chooseacoopcareergraphicSome people think the only time to start a new career is fresh out of high school or college. While the energy industry offers many rewarding careers to recent grads, it is also a great place to start a second or third career.

Lineworker training programs, such as the one offered through a partnership with the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives and Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, are growing in popularity among people who previously worked in oil and gas, manufacturing, mining, forestry and other similar industries.

Electric cooperatives are also eager to hire military veterans and their spouses. Last year, America’s electric cooperatives launched a program called “Serve Our Co-ops; Serve Our Country” to honor and hire veterans and their spouses. Nearly 40 percent of veterans come from rural America and only one third of them return after leaving the service. Rural cooperatives appreciate the value of the skills veterans learned while in service to our country. To learn more about the program go to

As not-for-profit, member-owned, locally based businesses, America’s electric cooperatives offer careers that allow employees to make a difference in the communities they serve. Cooperatives are guided by a set of principles that put people ahead of profits, and offer fulfilling work to those who enjoy serving others.

To learn more about the opportunities available across the cooperative network, visit