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Electric cooperatives sponsor first Girl Power Camp

Eleven high school girls got a taste of what it’s like to be an electric utility lineworker at the first Girl Power Camp, sponsored by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives. (VMD)

Held Sept. 22 at the Electric Cooperative Training Center in Fluvanna County, participants came from as far away as Winchester and the Northern Neck for an immersive exposure to the job of a lineworker.

They gained hands-on experience in climbing utility poles, stringing wire, operating a bucket truck and using a hot stick on a deenergized circuit.

They also heard from half-a-dozen women about the cooperative business model and career opportunities in the field. Among the speakers were Genevie Boarman of Northern Neck Electric Cooperative, the first female lineworker at a Virginia co-op. The day also included a live line safety demonstration in which experienced lineworkers set a hot dog on fire.

Other VMD Association associate members walked students through the equipment and roles their businesses play in the industry while donating several gift items. Pam Taylor of Southside Virginia Community College outlined the school’s Power Line Worker Training Program, a collaboration between the school and the cooperatives.

“What they’re doing here is amazing,” Ashley Knapp of Altec said of the co-ops as she worked with students on bucket truck controls. “I think it’s important that we pull diversity into an industry that’s not been diverse until here recently.”

Six co-ops were represented among the participants — Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, BARC Electric Cooperative, Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, Southside Electric Cooperative, Northern Neck Electric Cooperative and Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative.

Most of the students had little or no experience climbing a utility pole. “It was kind of nerve-wracking at first but once you got the hang of it, to keep one leg straight at all times, it was kind of like a breeze after that,” Rachel Hines of Rockbridge County High School in Lexington, who joined her sister McKenzie at the program, said. Their father, Jonathan Hines, is operations supervisor at BARC Electric.

“We’re delighted at the response to our first-ever Girl Power Camp,” Brian Mosier, president and CEO of the VMD Association, said. “We plan to build on this momentum with the assistance of our member cooperatives to help meet the fast-changing needs of the electric utility industry.”