Industry Happenings
February 27, 2024

Girl Power: Working Towards a Brighter Future

Girl Power Camp is a visionary program initiated by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC) that is aimed at educating and empowering young women and introducing them to potential careers in the energy sector. Spearheaded by Jim Robertson, Manager of Member Services at VMDAEC, the initiative has quickly grown from a novel idea into a  transformative experience for participants. The camp showcases the power of education and collaboration through innovative programming and hands-on learning experiences designed to foster a more inclusive future.

In 2021, Girl Power launched its inaugural camp with a dozen attendees. Participants were introduced to various lineworker tasks including clothing and protection, fall restraints, and bucket truck operations. “The highlight was the climbing part!” Robertson said, noting the enthusiasm and competitive spirit among the participants.  “Each attendee had a lineman next to her that helped her climb.” As the program expanded so did its curriculum and reach, doubling in attendance by the second year and incorporating new activities like fiber splicing and drone operation. 

In its most recent iteration the camp welcomed 75 participants, necessitating an expansion of the program to accommodate the growing interest. Robertson highlighted the inclusion of an HR station where attendees could engage with HR representatives from co-ops, discussing career paths and job search advice. At the end of the day the girls attend a presentation about a local pre-apprenticeship program. “The goal is to try to attract more young people into these careers.” he stated.

Girl Power exemplifies the Cooperative Principles in a profound way, demonstrating how cooperatives can come together to achieve a common goal that benefits the wider community. Robertson referenced the collaborative spirit that has been essential to the camp’s success, sharing, “This year we had 30-odd people from 10 different co-ops working together at one event. That’s the epitome of Cooperation Among Cooperatives.” This effort demonstrates how co-ops, by pooling resources and expertise, live by their principles of mutual support and shared successes.

The impact of Girl Power Camp has reverberated beyond its immediate geographic area, attracting attention and emulation from cooperatives across the United States. “We started getting phone calls from a few co-ops across the county to replicate the program.” Robertson shared, indicating the program’s influence beyond its initial scope.

Robertson’s advice to girls hesitant to join the trade due to gender stereotypes is pragmatic and empowering. “I  think the best encouragement would be to go job shadow and see what it’s about. We want young people to see that co-ops will invest in you.” He advocates for firsthand experiences that demystify the day-to-day realities of the trade, encouraging young women to explore these careers with an open mind. “Linemen love talking about their jobs and what they do. Talk to your co-op and see if a safety manager can take you to a job site for the day. See what a day is like and ask questions,” he suggested.

Looking forward, Robertson envisions Girl Power continuing to evolve and inspire. “I don’t know where the future is going to take Girl Power, but there’s a lot of opportunity,” he said. His aspirations for the program reflect a broader goal of fostering a more inclusive and diverse workforce within the trades, challenging stereotypes, and empowering the next generation of women to pursue their interests free from societal expectations.

Participating vendors and co-ops from Girl Power 2023 include:

Milwaukee Tool BARC Electric Cooperative
Bradley Electro Sales CorpCentral Virginia Electric Cooperative
Buckingham ManufacturingCraig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative
Lekson AssociatesShenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative
Bulwark FR ProtectionRappahannock Electric Cooperative
Sentinel Robotic SolutionsNorthern Neck Electric Cooperative
S&N CommunicationsSouthside Electric Cooperative
Utilities Credit UnionOld Dominion Electric Cooperative
Southside Virginia Community College 
Utility Sales Association 
Dominion Energy 

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