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  Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative  
  "Together We Have The Power To Make  A Difference

Electric Cooperatives are Driving Force Behind Establishment of
Power Line Worker Training School in Southside Virginia

On March 1, the new Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) Line Worker Training School at Fort Pickett in Blackstone, VA marked the celebration of its inaugural class with a ceremony that was attended by SVCC officials, electric utility executives and staff, local elected representatives, members of the media, and, of course, the young men who comprise the school’s first group of students. Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) and its CEO John Lee, along with his counterpart at Southside Electric Cooperative, Jeff Edwards, and his team there, were a driving force behind the establishment of the school and the two CEO’s were featured speakers at the “ribbon cutting” ceremony.


MEC’s leadership in this effort is yet another example of your cooperative’s commitment to supporting and giving back to the communities it serves. And while this school will ultimately give your electric service provider access to high quality line crew candidates as classes graduate and enter the job market, the school is about so much more than that opportunity. It is about recognizing that education and quality job training alternatives might well be Southside Virginia’s only hope to lift itself up and out of the poor economic condition that has haunted our region for far too long.


Below are the comments offered by MEC President and CEO John Lee at the ceremony outlining why this school is important to Southside Virginia and why the cooperative lent its support to the school’s establishment. His comments were as follows:


“On behalf of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative’s Board of Directors, our dedicated employees, and most importantly, our supportive Members, I too welcome you all to this very special ceremony and celebration of opportunity. Thomas Edison, a man those of us in the electric industry hold in high regard, once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls, and looks like work.” 

Here at SVCC’s Power Line Worker Training School, opportunity is dressed in fire retardant clothing and wearing a hardhat, a set of climbing hooks and a tool belt, and make no mistake about it…represents hard work. This school will create a variety of opportunities for its students, for the region, and for the state’s electric service providers, and those who assist them.  


Most obviously, this School represents a tremendous opportunity for those who choose to enroll here. Students of this school, who learn well, accept the tremendous responsibility that comes with serving the electric needs of our nation, and work safely, should be able to quickly secure a job and enjoy a long beneficial career doing work that, by all accounts, is rewarding in many ways. Certification from this school will give recipients a distinct advantage in the utility job market and sets them on a course for lineman status, an occupation that brings a national average compensation of nearly $70,000 per year, and an opportunity to work hard at work worth doing.


But this School also represents an opportunity for electric utilities, and the contractors who assist them, to bridge the growing gap in employability skills between these organizations’ needs, and those possessed by applicants. It will provide quality candidates, soundly educated in line-working fundamentals, to replace an alarming number of current line workers who are eligible for retirement in the near future.


Additionally, the school represents an opportunity for Southside Virginia and those who live here. It is a fact that the availability of quality education and training alternatives has a profound impact on a region’s economic viability, and this school will be a valuable, and much needed asset, in our region’s lacking inventory of career opportunities. Recognizing the high cost, of low educational attainment to the individual, the family, and the community, certification from this school begins a direct path to a well-paying career that may allow recipients to work and raise their families closer to home. It also offers high school graduates who are not inclined, or cannot afford, to go to college, a meaningful and valuable employment alternative. Perhaps most importantly, it provides its students, and their families, with the hope of a brighter tomorrow.


Finally, the School represents an excellent opportunity to emphasize our industry’s commitment to safety to a new generation of power line workers. And it is our duty to seize every opportunity to do so, given that there is an unbearable price to be paid by those who do not respect the commodity delivered by the equipment on which electric line crews work. At this school, safety will be the most important lesson taught, and those who do not grasp, with conviction, the “safety first” concept, will struggle to find steady employment in this industry. Safety will be first at this school, it has to be...and making it so, is a legacy worth building here.


I want to thank the members of my great team, and particularly, Leilani Todd and Clint Card, for their work on this school, and its curriculum, and our Board of Directors for endorsing our participation in this very worthy project, and for our cooperative’s financial support of the school as well. We are very proud to have worked closely alongside Jeff Edwards, and his capable team at Southside Electric Cooperative, on the establishment of this program, and we thank Dr. DuBois, Dr. Roberts, Keith, Mary Jane, and all those at Southside Virginia Community College who worked so diligently to make today a reality.

In only 10 short months, this school went from an agenda item and a “let’s do it”, to this great ceremony today, and many have worked hard to turn this fantastic idea into a training facility populated with its very first class. This school’s creation is a testament to cooperation and represents the best in mutually beneficial business and education partnerships. Virginia’s cooperatives, with the strong support of Governor McAuliffe and our Legislators, worked with a very dedicated Community College staff, to meet our industry’s need for qualified, competent line workers and at the same time will provide educational opportunities and brighter futures for the young people of our region.


We ‘d also like to thank our sister cooperatives around the state, as well as Richard Johnstone and his staff at our statewide cooperative association, for their support and involvement, and our business partners who contributed much needed resources that were invaluable in getting this school up and running. Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative is very proud to be a part of this project. We are thankful for all the opportunities it provides, and we offer our sincere congratulations to everyone whose work made today possible.


Lastly, thank you to the members of this inaugural class…we look forward to watching you learn and grow here over the next 11 weeks, and then we hope to see you seizing this opportunity by carrying on the proud traditions of the American line worker. If you work safely and hard, take pride in what you do, and always remember the importance of the service you provide, you’ll join the impressive ranks of strong men and women who have powered this nation, and played a vital role in making it the greatest country on the face of the earth. Best of wishes to each of you on both earning your certification, and on a long and satisfying career in the electric utility industry.         


Thank you…








This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer

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