Lifelong Learning Helps Co-ops Continue to Serve

Electric cooperative employees must continually learn new skills to keep pace with rapidly changing technology and satisfy consumer-members’ ever-changing needs, said National Rural Electric Cooperative Association President Chris Christensen at a recent annual co-op event.

“Our members receive our services for their basic needs, but also for internet access, to run their 3D printers, and to charge their electric cars. New products and services will continue to emerge, and if we want to continue to improve the quality of life for our members and meet their expectations, we must prepare ourselves and our co-ops,” he said.

Christensen, a cattle rancher from Montana, urged co-op leaders to embrace lifelong learning for themselves and their employees. The most valuable employees are the ones who never stop learning, he added.

CREA, the state trade association for Colorado’s electric co-ops, provides a variety of educational opportunities, both to co-op board members and to co-op employees. In 2021, the statewide association provided 26 webinars for board members, co-op employees and youth, and 14 in-person classes.

Classes included a variety of topics: hands-on instruction for outside employees, leadership training, the safety programs, IT, cybersecurity sessions, finance classes and much more.

A recent NRECA poll shows 97% of co-op employees say opportunities to participate in education and training contribute to their job satisfaction.

“When we focus on investing in ongoing learning and the preparation of our people, we accomplish three things,” Christensen said. “We identify and prepare future co-op leaders. We nurture a governing body that represents the best interests of the co-op. And we improve our co-op culture, creating a unified, knowledgeable and aligned organization that can effectively navigate the future.”