On a sunny morning in December, nearly two dozen young women from around the state explored the opportunity of becoming lineworkers. The participants gathered at VMDAEC’s state-of-the-art training facility in Palmyra, Va., for a free experience with hands-on training in utility careers provided by local electric cooperatives, including Northern Neck Electric Cooperative.
For many of the young women attending the event, it was was their first time learning about careers in the utility industry, which is not shocking considering the low representation of women in linework. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, less than 6% of lineworkers are women.
By educating young women about the various careers available in the utility industry, the hope is that more will join. Throughout the day, the young women rotated through interactive stations featuring different utility careers. Each station was led by female instructors who choose to work in predominantly male-dominated fields. Stations included linework equipment and personal protective equipment, like hot sticks and chainsaws, fiber installation, drone operation and more. Participants also met with human resources professionals, who provided interview tips and tricks. Every participant had the opportunity to climb a utility pole with NNEC lineworkers.
Gena Boarman, Chris Henry, Craig Loving and Blaine Salmans demonstrated and instructed the participants on climbing a utility pole. This included assisting them in putting on lineworker gear and coaching them as they ascended and descended the pole. Nearly every participant attempted this experience and was successful.
“This is my second year helping at this empowering event,” says Boarman, NNEC lineworker and first female electric co-op lineworker in Virginia. “I really enjoy being here and having the opportunity to share my experiences. My hope is that my story encourages and inspires these young women to chase their dreams, ... even if those dreams mean being the first female to do it.”
“As a father of a daughter, this event holds a special place in my heart,” says Craig Loving, foreman, “If she decides to be a lineworker, I want her to know that her dream is within reach. Anyone can become a lineworker if they are dependable, motivated and hardworking.”
VMDAEC hopes to make this an annual event, and NNEC has pledged to continue its role. “NNEC is proud to participate in this educational event that inspires career success, educates the public on electrical safety, empowers women, and improves the quality of life in our communities,” says Brad Hicks, president and CEO. Students interested in future events can look for updates at vmdaec.com/girl-power-camp.