Josh Kramer

Do you ever have those moments? The ones that grab you and make you beam with pride, when you realize something important and meaningful has happened.

I had this epiphany recently. I realized, “Dang, the people in our co-ops ‘get it.’” (I know, I get paid to say that, but really, they do “get it.”) And they put their money where their mouths are, so to speak.

Our co-ops invest in their communities and their people. Not only the people of today, but looking forward, toward tomorrow and their future communities, members and workforce.

Last month, North Dakota’s electric cooperatives and Bismarck State College (BSC) celebrated 50 years of partnership and a renewed commitment to training lineworkers by unveiling plans for a new and improved Lineworker Training Center. (You can read about it on page 6.)

The BSC lineworker training program provides a great introduction to this critical trade, but completing the program is just the beginning. Learning continues throughout a lineworker’s career, both on the job and with advanced technical and safety training. Continuing education, training and safety programs are offered in special schools and by organizations like ours, the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC). NDAREC hosts a safety training program for the state’s electric cooperative workforce.

Training of this skilled workforce is essential to safely maintaining the billions of dollars of electrical infrastructure deployed by North Dakota’s electric cooperatives to provide reliable, resilient and affordable power to its member-owners.

The new Lineworker Training Center will dually service the future electric utility workforce and existing electric cooperative workforce. It will be the home base for a top-notch student training program. Plus, the facility’s indoor arena will accommodate the training needs of apprentice and journey electric cooperative lineworkers. Co-op employees will utilize the facility, outside of construction season, for training purposes.

There is a lot to be proud of – pride in what has been accomplished, pride in cooperatives’ commitment to safety and workforce development.

At a recent national meeting attended by thousands of electric cooperative leaders, General Colin Powell, former secretary of state, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Army brigadier general, virtually delivered the keynote address. He told a story that hit home for me:

President Abraham Lincoln receives a message during the Civil War, saying a Confederate detachment captured a brigadier general and 100 horses. President Lincoln said, “Sure hate to lose those horses.” When asked about the brigadier general, Lincoln replied, “I can make a brigadier general in five minutes, but it’s not easy to replace 100 horses.”

Powell explained it’s the horses that carry the troops – our lineworkers and frontline co-op employees are the lifeblood of our cooperatives. By taking care of them and developing our workforce, we are better able to provide affordable, safe, reliable service to our members.EDITORIAL: JUNE 2021