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Hire a veteran

November veterans’ career fairs highlight cooperatives and related careers

Kentucky Air National Guardsman Shaun Cecil points to the three core values of the U.S. Air Force as guiding principles for his civilian job as a substation maintenance supervisor at Big Rivers Electric in Henderson.

“Service before self, excellence in all you do and integrity,” Cecil says. “I believe these three core values that I follow go hand in hand with the military and the co-ops. When I follow these values at work, I feel it helps me succeed at my job.”

Preparing for his third deployment overseas as chief master sergeant in the 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron, Cecil exemplifies the goals of the veterans hiring initiative, Serve Our Co-ops; Serve Our Country, of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

A 20-year military veteran, Cecil was hired by Big Rivers in 2015.

“Veterans have always been a core part of our co-op workforce, and this program creates additional intent to hire more veterans,” says Michelle Rostom, director of workforce development for NRECA. “Veterans are mission-oriented, disciplined, and safety-focused. … They show strong leadership capabilities and they work well under pressure.”

With retirements and innovations, electric co-ops across America expect to hire as many as 25,000 new employees in the next five years.

Cecil says his military service helps cultivate a sense of dedication.

“The co-op, much like the military, exists to provide a service to our members that is in best interest to them,” Cecil says, “Meaning, that you might have to make sacrifices in order to provide a quality service in the best interest to our members.”

“Hiring veterans is good for Big Rivers,” says Director of Human Resources Lisa Garrett. “Veterans come into our organization with the teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills learned in the military that are valuable to us. They have a strong work ethic, understand the need for commitment to task, and excel in high-pressure situations.”

“America’s military veterans have proven they can be relied upon to get jobs done,” says Nick Comer, EKPC’s external affairs manager.

In November, EKPC is offering a series of veterans’ career fairs to highlight the electric cooperative and its related careers.

Kentucky Air National Guardsman Shawn Cecil, shown in Afghanistan in 2011, is preparing for his third deployment overseas as chief master sergeant in the 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron. Photo: Shaun Cecil

“Veterans often have skills and training that fit very well with the technical positions in the electric power industry,” says Teri Lacy, Human Resources manager for EKPC. “Plus, they have served our country and often have made tremendous personal and family sacrifices, so we want to see if there is an opportunity for EKPC to help.”

After a similar hiring event last year, EKPC extended offers to two veterans, including Michelle Huff, who is now employed at Cooper Station in Somerset.

“This company didn’t just do a job fair,” Huff says. “They went above and beyond in bringing in local advocates that help veterans with obtaining job interviews and going to college. I was very blessed with my military career, and was able to become part of the EKPC family.”

“I think every day I use my military background to help me with my co-op job,” Cecil says, “especially when it comes to dealing with emergencies. The military teaches you how to stay calm and manage the situation at hand and try to accomplish everything in a task-orientated method. This method really helps out when you have outages and situations that require a lot of planning.”

With hiring needs continuing to grow, the parallels between the military and cooperative principles may serve as a guide. Think teamwork, autonomy, independence, and community.

“The biggest advice I can give is that the co-ops are a great place to work that provide you with the same type of pride that serving the military gives you,” Cecil says. “If you stick to your core values, you will have no problem succeeding with your career in the co-ops.”

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