What role does continuing education play in co-op governance?

Answer: As an elected director on my cooperative’s board, I feel that the members have placed a big responsibility on me to guide the co-op in a way that is in the best long-term interests of the organization. Our business has grown increasingly complex over the years, with new technologies, cybersecurity threats and renewable energy. Power supply costs continue to rise. I sit on our G&T board and feel that the classes I’ve taken help me better understand the power supply conversations we have there. Our members have also expressed interest in solar energy. NRECA’s director education courses provide me with the knowledge to do the best job I can in that responsibility. Anything worth doing requires an investment in money and/or time. Any knowledge I can obtain will allow me to make more informed decisions. Those decisions will help the co-op operate in a more efficient manner. I feel the director education program classes have not only helped me be a better director but a better communicator with my fellow directors, our CEO and with our members. Continuing education is essential to be the kind of director the members expect and deserve. Without it there are some things that could take years to learn. In my mind, Director Gold is worth the time and money to stay informed on the issues that impact our co-op.

Answer: When I step into the boardroom for each meeting, I want to be as knowledgeable as possible for the many issues my co-op faces in an ever-changing energy environment. Unlike our CEOs, who are involved on a day-to-day basis, training helps directors stay on top of the issues. Continuing education has helped me to make decisions that can impact our co-op for years to come. These classes have helped me be more confident in the boardroom. It’s an added benefit to be recognized for this effort with Director Gold. My continuing education has helped in my role as a director because the information we get in the courses is current and up to date. I would encourage all directors to continue their education throughout their service on the board. Director Gold requires me to take three courses over two years, which I find manageable. Many directors have careers outside the co-op, which makes finding time for training a challenge. Online courses are available, but I encourage all directors to attend courses in person if possible. I find myself alongside new and experienced directors from around my region and around the country who I can interact with along with the instructors. My advice to new directors is to attend a few meetings prior to starting your courses. This provides a frame of reference and helps to put into practice what we learn in class.

Answer: I believe that continuing education is essential for me to keep up-to-date on issues facing cooperatives and our industry, especially during a time of concern over grid reliability, cybersecurity and the transition away from carbon-based fuels. I believe it demonstrates to the membership that you’re willing to invest the time and energy to get the skills and knowledge needed to look out for their interests. Knowledge about the industry and the issues facing our cooperative helps me engage and speak up with confidence in the board room. The Director Gold commitment to continuing education proves you are interested in going the extra mile to do your best on the members’ behalf. In the last few years alone, I’ve needed to learn about electric vehicle charging and its impact on our system as well as cyberthreats our system faces and what the board’s oversight responsibility is to protect our members. A commitment to continuing education also shows a director has the initiative and passion to continue learning during their service on the board. Directors are fortunate today to have online and in-person courses to choose from. This allows a director to accommodate their learning style, available time and budget. Lastly, I have found that each of the NRECA courses I’ve taken have added to my knowledge and skills to be the top-notch director I want to be on behalf of our members.

Answer: I consider myself a lifelong learner, so pursuing Director Gold was an easy decision for me. Director education matters to me, because I’m always looking for ways to enhance my role as a board member and as our board’s chairperson. NRECA’s director courses have enhanced my leadership skills, which I have used in my personal life and in my work as a director. They have given me broader industry and governance knowledge, which has helped me be a better chair and make better decisions. For example, our co-op hired a new CEO this year after a comprehensive search. The courses I had taken over the years gave me the confidence to navigate that process and to help our board make the best decision for the co-op’s long-term best interests. Continuing education helps me make informed decisions on things like power supply and how our co-op can serve our members who own electric vehicles. Attending classes has also allowed me to develop a network of fellow directors around the state and throughout the country that I’ve learned a lot from over the years. Networking with fellow directors is one of the great features of the electric cooperative program. I would say I’ve learned as much from my network as I have from the classes I’ve taken. I tell new directors who may be a little nervous about the responsibilities of serving on the board that they are not alone. They can build a network of fellow board members as well as directors around the state who will be there to help and support them.

Answer: I believe that it is our responsibility as cooperative directors to pursue all available educational opportunities so we can ensure that the membership is getting the best possible representation not only locally but nationally. By taking the courses required to achieve the Director Gold certification, my understanding of how to best serve my cooperative and its members has greatly improved and will continue to get better as I continue to maintain my certification. My advice would be if you want to be the best possible representative of your cooperative and its members, you should take as many NRECA courses as possible. Before you realize it, you not only achieved Director Gold, but you are a better director for your cooperative. I would just like to say thank you to all the instructors at NRECA for all their help. During this type of educational journey, a person usually has an instructor that he or she doesn't connect with well. During my journey, every NRECA instructor I had was professional, personable, knowledgeable and always willing to take the time to make sure everyone understood the material being presented. I couldn't be happier with the experience.

Answer: As a new director, I knew that I didn't have the base knowledge to be making many of the assessments and decisions that needed to be made for the co-op. I recognized that the NRECA credentialing program was likely customized to bring us “newbies" up to speed with the right information in the best-order-of-delivery to help us become competent and effective. Our co-op specifies that new directors should work toward achieving a CCD certificate within their first year. It happened that I was appointed to the board (due to a health retirement) just at the beginning of COVID and the beginning of the now-online courses. It was convenient for me to take courses at a greatly accelerated rate from home; I didn't have to travel or commit days to learning; I could just commit hours. As for “Going for the Gold" versus just meeting the CCD in the first year, I've been an instructor for a long time and I know how much easier and more effective it is to keep a roll going and leapfrog from one course through the next. It worked. Certainly, as intended, I was able to learn how to work my way through the information and learning curve that new directors have to go through. As noted above, a little bit of knowledge is good; more knowledge is better; and as much as I can get is best. I have been able to participate much more effectively in discussions and decisions. Being able to refer to class materials to help substantiate points or arguments can make a lot of difference. The best advice or tips I can offer are: 1) Take advantage of any opportunity you are offered or can seek out to attend enhancement training. 2) Make the decision and commitment to follow through on number 1. 3) Immerse yourself in the job. Simply stated, NRECA has provided a platform for excellent and pertinent advanced training. It gives you a chance to learn more about the job you're elected to do and how to do it best.