June 2019

‘Guinea Pig’ Lineworker Gets a Degree

Mitch DeJarnette says he liked being a guinea pig. After all, it landed him a college degree.

DeJarnette, a line technician with Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC), is the first graduate of a new associate degree program offered through a partnership with the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC) and Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC).

“I was like the guinea pig being the first in the program,” says DeJarnette, who has been at MEC for two years after a four-and-a-half-year stint at Central Virginia Electric Cooperative. “I feel a degree offers me more value and more opportunities.”

The program enables lineworkers to get a degree as an industrial maintenance technician while they are still in the workforce. VMDAEC apprentice linemen receive up to 35 hours of college credit for on-the-job training. Combined with SVCC online coursework, that gives lineworkers like DeJarnette an associate degree — and a leg up.

“This partnership is yet another example of the commonwealth’s electric cooperatives joining forces with the community colleges to provide educational opportunities for those in our industry, or those looking to get started in the electric utility business,” says John C. Lee Jr., president and CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative.

“We encourage our employees to continue their professional growth and we are proud of Mitch for taking advantage of the opportunity to glean even greater value from his journeyman lineman training and position himself to be considered for other professional development options,” Lee says.

The degree is available through all cooperatives in Virginia, with a convenient online component accessible to lineworkers across the commonwealth.

“Helping students meet their educational goals is core to our mission and we hope this partnership will encourage all of the graduates of our program to enroll, and, also those of other programs as well,” says Richard G. Johnstone Jr., president and CEO of VMDAEC.

“Creating this career pathway will allow students to progress from industry-recognized credentials to an associate degree and hopefully on to a bachelor’s degree.”

Mitch DeJarnette, a line technician with Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, is the first graduate of a new associate degree program.

Mitch DeJarnette, a line technician with Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, is the first graduate of a new associate degree program.