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Shining Light on Opportunity

Electric co-ops introduce young women to energy careers

January-February 2024

Determined to become a lineworker, Warren County High School senior Dehlilaray Roop returned for her second Girl Power Camp this year.

by Jim Robertson, Staff Writer

Young women throughout Virginia challenged their determination to reach new heights at this year’s Girl Power Camp, hosted by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, its member cooperatives and generous industry partners.

On Nov. 3, nearly 80 determined young women from across the commonwealth attended the third annual event at the Association’s state-of-the-art training facility in Palmyra, Va., for an interactive experience introducing them to a variety of career paths in the energy industry, including that of a lineworker.

The one-day energy career experience is intended for high school girls interested in or curious about working on a line crew, in a substation, as a drone operator, with advanced metering technology, or as a fiber broadband technician.

Industry professionals led students through eight half-hour sessions as they climbed poles, operated a bucket truck, used a hotline stick, piloted drones, and tied wire while wearing rubber gloves used by lineworkers. They also learned about fiber splicing, interview and job searching best practices, and how to manage their finances.

Staff from S&N Communications cooked and served lunch, during which system operators Debbie Campbell and Corina Daw from Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative led a lunchtime discussion about career paths and opportunities within the cooperative industry. Other women in energy followed with their individual experiences.

Several students were also able to sharpen their public-speaking skills while being interviewed on camera with reporters from CBS 19 and NBC 29 out of Charlottesville.

Entry-level operations roles can often lead to a variety of other opportunities within an organization, including leadership roles. Electric cooperatives and their industry partners are committed to attracting more young women to these types of roles.

“Young girls are becoming courageous and taking on careers like electricians and pipefitters and welders and enjoying them, because not everybody is college bound,” says Kristina Farnham, building trades instructor at Rappahannock County High School. “It’s nice to have an alternative that pays well.” A former union pipefitter, Farnham also participated in the event alongside her students.

School administrators describe the event as a great example of how community partnerships can help expand learning beyond the classroom walls and help students discover the diverse career opportunities available to them.


One unique characteristic of Girl Power is the cooperation and teamwork among 10 electric cooperatives, along with several industry partners, working together to promote and execute the event. Co-op professionals led discussions about job interviewing, managing finances, helped students put on gear and climb poles, served as media contacts, provided hard hats, and more.

“We are able to illustrate to young women that cooperatives are an amazing place to work,” says Melissa Gay, vice president of communications and member services at Central Virginia Electric Cooperative. “They have great benefits, and it’s like working for your family. And young women are welcome there.”

Several partners helped make this event possible, including Milwaukee Tool, Altec, Bradley Electro, Utility Sales Associates, S&N Communications, Sentinel Robotic Solutions, Bulwark, Utility Service Agency, Lekson Associates, Utilities Employees Credit Union and Dominion Energy.

For more, visit vmdaec.com/powerfulcareers.