Last month, as you kicked back with friends and family during the holiday celebrating hard work, you probably weren’t giving a lot of thought to our local workforce. I never stop thinking about it.
Look around at the recent retirees you know. Many of them were skilled tradespeople who had acquired decades of experience. Businesses, such as our cooperative, are concerned about the lack of skilled replacements. Each time someone walks out our co-op’s door, we wonder where we’ll find someone to fill their spot.
The energy industry is changing and the need for people who have a skilled trade background is increasing. For example, as we shift to more renewable energy resources, there is a growing demand for people to support these technologies and be able to install and maintain solar and wind turbine structures. Additionally, electricians and technicians skilled in grid automation and control systems are going to be essential in deploying and maintaining the smart grid technology for utilities. And this is just in our industry. We’ve not done enough to reach young people and make them aware of the interesting and satisfying work that can be found here.
Our REMC isn’t alone. Every company that hires pipefitters, plumbers, heavy equipment operators or electricians is struggling to attract eager replacements for the folks who are retiring. That’s why we decided that one of the best things we could do for the communities we serve is establish a Trades Camp for students.
On Thursday, Nov. 2, we’re bringing high school juniors and seniors throughout our area to our inaugural Trades Camp. We want students to know they don’t always have to go to college to have a lucrative career — learning a skilled trade is a great place to start. When they arrive, they’ll have an opportunity to speak with professionals from several trades. Even better, they’ll have a chance to participate in hands-on activities, so they can see whether a particular trade is worth a closer look. They’ll also learn about apprenticeships and other training programs.
Is there a junior or senior in your home (or your relatives’ or neighbors’ homes) who might find high-paying and highly satisfying work in a trade? I hope so, because our communities need people with those skills to make life better for everyone. There’s a simple application process. You can find all the details on our website or at the guidance department of your child’s school.