Even though electric cooperatives have been hiring more ex-military, the energy sector still tends to fly under the radar for veterans.
The irony of this “awareness gap” is that there is near-universal agreement about the synergies between military service and the electric industry.
“Both have strong people with a sense of loyalty and duty in serving our community or country,” says National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Principal for Cybersecurity Ryan Newlon, who spent 20 years in the Missouri Army National Guard. “It blows my mind that they’re so similar.”
Over the past two years, there’s been a wave of veteran retirements from the energy industry, dropping their representation from 9.6% in 2019 to 8% in 2021, according to the latest Gaps in the Energy Careers report published by the Center for Energy Workforce Development.
Raising the energy industry’s profile among vets is especially critical at electric co-ops, where the pending retirement rate is particularly high, with some 35% of co-op employees expected to leave within the next six to 10 years, according to CEWD data.
NRECA Workforce Programs Manager Desiree Dunham says it’s essential that co-ops are seen as a viable option for all potential talent pipelines.
“Connecting with men and women transitioning out of the military and showing them the career options and how ideal a fit co-op work is will help co-ops with building a skilled and diverse workforce,” she says.
NRECA launched its Vets Power Us initiative, which Dunham leads, in 2020 to facilitate the connection between job-seeking veterans and co-op career opportunities. Co-ops can access resources to help recruitment efforts and provide information to veterans about jobs.
There are similar hiring initiatives throughout the energy industry, but veterans nevertheless are proving an elusive group to attract.
Advocates say it boils down to breaking down barriers, meeting the veterans where they are, creating awareness of energy jobs, and highlighting the similarities.