Faced with the challenge of filling 15,000 jobs over the next five to seven years, America’s electric cooperatives want to do more than simply thank veterans for their service this Veterans Day—they want to offer them a job.
“Our military veterans deserve our unending gratitude for their service to our country, on Veterans Day and every day,” said Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). “Vets possess many of the qualities sought by electric co-ops, including a deep commitment to service and an uncompromising work ethic. More than 200,000 service members transition out of the military to civilian life each year, and we’d like to tap into that talent to help fill the thousands of co-op jobs opening up.”
To achieve this goal, NRECA launched Serve Our Co-ops; Serve Our Country, a nationwide program to provide veterans, service members and military spouses with the opportunity to continue their mission of service by joining the ranks of America’s electric co-ops. The program provides participating co-ops with resources and training to help them implement nationally-recognized best practices in attracting, hiring, onboarding and retaining veterans.
Fifty co-ops have signed on to the initiative since its launch earlier this year. In July, Jonesboro, Ark.-based Craighead Electric Cooperative hired the first veteran under the program when it welcomed aboard Air Force Capt. Jeremiah Sloan as an electrical engineer. “He is a totally professional young man,” Craighead CEO Brian Duncan said. “Not only did we get a quality candidate to serve our members, we got a local guy who wanted to get back home and a veteran who has served our country well.”
“I absolutely love the co-op experience,” said Sloan, who sees many similarities between his military service and work at Craighead Electric. “Everyone is committed to the cause and really takes care of each other.”
During his six years in the Air Force, Sloan helped develop communication and navigation systems for aircraft. He also completed work on a master’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Kentucky. Sloan got his first taste of the electric co-op world when he interned at Clay County Electric Cooperative in Corning, Ark., in 2010 while waiting for his commission to Hanscom Air Force Base.
In addition to providing him with a high-quality job, Serve Our Co-ops; Serve Our Country allowed Sloan to return to his rural roots. While approximately 40 percent of all military recruits come from rural America, less than 30 percent return to rural communities following their service. The job with Craighead Electric was “an opportunity to do something I know that I love and do it where I want to be long term,” Sloan said.