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.
Held Sept. 22 at the Electric Cooperative Training Center in Palmyra, participants came from as far away as Winchester and the Northern Neck for an immersive exposure to the job of a lineworker, including three local students from Louisa County High School – Shanoa Wright, Anna Pencak, and Alexis Fickes
They gained hands-on experience in climbing 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.
“It requires a lot more hands-on knowledge than I originally thought. There’s a lot more schooling to it,” Pencak said.
Other VMD Association associate members walked students through the equipment and roles their businesses play in the industry while donating several gift items. An overview also was provided of Southside Virginia Community College’s Power Line Worker Training Program, a collaboration between the school and the cooperatives.
“I think it is good that girls are getting into this workforce. It’s cool that their doing it,” Fickes said.
“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.”
Joining Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC), five other electric cooperatives took part in the event - BARC Electric Cooperative, Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, Southside Electric Cooperative, Northern Neck Electric Cooperative and Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative.
“I really enjoy being outside, so this was something I thought I could try out” explained Wright. “I think it’s a good career because it’s always going to be needed.”
Brian Mosier, president and CEO of the VMD Association, said he was pleased with the response for the first Girl Power Camp.
“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,” he said.