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From Chasing To Climbing

Jacobs is always learning; now he is teaching, too

by Jim Robertson, Staff Writer

J.T. Jacobs – Safety & training instructor – VMD Association of Electric Cooperatives

J.T. Jacobs’ mother raised him believing that he could do anything with hard work, dedication and an advanced degree. “Early on, the idea of successful careers was predisposed in my mind as those requiring a degree from an institution of higher learning,” says the safety and training instructor of Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.

Chasing a dream, Jacobs played football and studied pre-med at Emory & Henry College in Southwest Virginia. Two short years convinced him he was not going to be a professional athlete. Following a transfer to study biology at Radford University, Jacobs shifted his focus to business management,


“I began to lose interest in school,” he admits. “The repetitiveness of starting over diminished the lacquer of a college degree for me.” To prove success was possible without a degree, Jacobs managed a gym in Blacksburg, Va. Feeling some regret about his choices, Jacobs started exploring trade professions and was surprised by the salaries. A Cooperative Living article about a lineworker training school at Southside Virginia Community College caught his attention

He thought, “’Why am I just now learning about this? This is what I was meant to be.’ I still remember the exhilaration of climbing my first pole. I had finally found my niche.”

After graduating from the 11-week program, Jacobs landed a job with Pike, an electric utility contractor.

Six months later, he joined Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative in Winchester, Va., and eventually relocated closer to home in the co-op’s Augusta County district. In 2019, Jacobs was part of a team of lineworkers sent to Bolivia to bring electricity to rural communities.

Being exposed to the level of poverty in the communities we helped humbled our hearts,” he says.


Nearing completion of his four-year apprenticeship with SVEC, Jacobs remembered his childhood dreams and put his climbing skills to work on the corporate ladder. “I knew it was a long shot, but I’ve never let the impossible hinder my drive,” he says.

Today, Jacobs provides safety and training instruction to 15 electric cooperatives, as well as municipal systems. From field visits with crews to leading first-aid and CPR training to performing dielectric testing on safety equipment, Jacobs is making a difference in the lives of many by helping to ensure they arrive home safely every day.

Jacobs describes his ambition with an Arnold Schwarzenegger quote: “You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.”