This month’s question: How has your veterans hiring strategy helped your co-op?
Answer: At Poudre Valley REA, we put a strategic focus on hiring veterans, and that focus continues to pay positive dividends across our cooperative and for our members. From lineworkers to engineers to safety leadership to front office workers, our veterans play a key role in fulfilling our mission. Our veterans embody the characteristics that are needed for us to navigate a rapidly changing electric industry while exceeding the rising expectations of service our members have and deserve. We find our veterans come ready to learn and lead on day one with loyalty, dedication, superior technological abilities and a strong work ethic. Our veterans have also helped cultivate an employee culture of commitment and camaraderie. This is especially important as our team must work together, cross-functionally, to face challenges head-on to make a meaningful impact on the lives of those we serve, our members. We place immense value on the experience and character gained through serving in the military. Giving opportunities to fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much to ensure the rest of us are able to enjoy an unmatched quality of life—including 24/7/365 power—is not only strategic but clearly illustrates what being a cooperative is all about.
Answer: North Arkansas Electric Cooperative's veterans hiring strategy has helped our co-op find candidates who possess specialized skills that are hard to find in the normal labor market. For example, in 2019 we were searching for a GIS/fiber design technician to complete the mapping of our system. This task was vital to the fiber-optic build project that not only benefits NAEC's ability to communicate with downline devices but also provides our members access to high-speed broadband internet, TV and phone services through our subsidiary, NEXT, Powered by NAEC. In our rural area, we were having a difficult time finding a candidate with GIS mapping skills and experience. It is a unique skill set. Fortunately, we connected with a local candidate who had spent many years serving as a geospatial engineer for the U.S. Army. The military provided him with extensive training in topography and geospatial intelligence, which served as the perfect foundation for the role that we needed to fill in our organization. He hit the ground running and continues to do an outstanding job today! The military prepared him well for a role such as this. We feel fortunate to have him, and our other veterans, as part of our co-op family.
Answer: Dairyland actively recruits veterans to join our workforce, a strategy that for decades has proven to be a win-win for both the employer and the employee. Veterans are goal-oriented, highly skilled and honorable. These are key traits that will help advance our growth and innovation in the energy industry. In turn, Dairyland offers a “People 1st" workforce culture centered around learning and development. We are committed to providing our greatest asset, our people, with as many benefits and work-life balance strategies as possible. As of September 2021, Dairyland employed 56 veterans, which is approximately 13% of our workforce. Dairyland is applying to be a GI Bill Training Facility, and we also participate in NRECA's Vets Power Us initiative to recruit and hire veterans. When posting jobs externally, we specifically target more than 20 veteran recruiting sites and will participate in veteran career fairs in the future. Dairyland is proud of our veterans, who have served our country and now continue to use their skills and talents to help power rural America. Last year, two of our employees who are veterans were interviewed by our local CBS affiliate. Eric Hammes, our System Operations Center manager, noted that Dairyland and electric cooperatives have a great reputation for hiring veterans. “I knew I was valued as a veteran," he said. As Dairyland's CEO, I can confirm that Eric is 100% correct.
Answer: Veterans leave the military with many skills that will allow them to excel in the utilities sector. They work in high-pressure and fast-paced environments, are safety focused and have knowledge and use of advanced technologies. As cooperatives plan for the future, tapping into the veteran talent pipeline can help with managing workforce transitions, integrating technology enhancements and filling leadership needs. Creating a veterans hiring strategy is a great starting point. As active military members begin moving toward civilian life, many say they are looking to return home to rural areas. This transition point is an opportunity for electric cooperatives to connect with them and share information about the cooperative way. Vets Power Us was designed to support veterans, active military and their spouses by providing resources and partnerships for co-ops to recruit, hire and honor veterans. We’ve seen first-hand how hiring these heroes strengthens our cooperatives and our communities. The program, created last year from the original Serve Our Co-ops; Serve Our Country initiative, helps increase the visibility of cooperative careers by securing commitments from co-ops and communicating their work through success stories and veteran spotlights. I encourage you to visit the Vets Power Us page on cooperative.com to learn more about the program.