FastForward trainees keep the lights on across Virginia

Virginia’s rural electric cooperatives knew they faced a stark future if they did not act: short of enough workers with specialized skills, they would not be able to maintain the power grid across the countryside.

To tackle what they termed “astounding” numbers of expected retirements in their ranks in the coming decade, electric co-ops joined together with Southside Virginia Community College to establish a Power Line Worker Training School (PLWS) in 2016.

The skills taught at the school are part of the larger FastForward program at Virginia’s Community Colleges, aimed at meeting the needs of Virginia’s businesses while providing people with new and affordable paths toward rewarding careers.

“By every measure, this initiative has been a tremendous success,” said John Lee, Jr., President and CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative. “We depend on trained and certified power line workers to provide the service and repairs that our customers expect. Reliable electric power has an undeniable positive impact on our region’s economic viability and quality of life.”

“We need skilled workers with industry-recognized credentials, and we’re thrilled the PLWS and FastForward are helping us to meet the demands of the present and the future,” said Jeff Edwards, CEO of Southside Electric Cooperative. “Our line workers know their work is valued in the community and we’re proud to be part of an industry that is providing life-changing opportunities for our workers, and for the customers we serve.”