Lee Delivers Commencement Address

SVCC’s Power Line Worker Training Program celebrates its 21st cohort and 500th graduate.

John Lee Speaker PLW Graduation

In 2015, leaders of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC), Southside Electric Cooperative, and the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives put their heads together to come up with a solution for a growing need for well-trained lineworkers.

Through collaboration with Southside Virginia Community College, the SVCC Power Line Worker Training Program was created, with its first cohort entering SVCC’s doors in 2016.

Fast forward seven years and the program has now graduated 21 classes, totaling 501 students hailing from 56 counties and 13 cities in Virginia, as well as seven other states. 95 percent of the students from this rigorous program now work at 71 different companies, and an astounding 90 percent of the graduates have received job offers before, or soon after graduation.

John C. Lee, Jr., president and CEO of MEC, and one of the original authors of the concept for the curriculum, gave the commencement address at Southside Virginia Community College’s Power Line Worker Training Program’s 21st completion ceremony recently, acknowledging the program’s significant milestones.

“The graduates we honor today are shining examples of this program’s value and SVCC’s strong commitment to their success. Knowledge, embedded in skill sets and coupled with initiative, teamwork, and other social skills, yields individuals such as these graduates who will begin their careers with a very competitive start … this school is generating potential employees who can immediately begin contributing to the bottom line of his or her employer.”

To the graduates, he said, “What we do impacts the quality of life for all who live in our great nation, and you have successfully taken the first step to be counted amongst the incredibly dedicated team of people responsible for powering our country.

“Electric utility line work is among the most noble, demanding, and hazardous of careers, and doing the job safely and competently requires intelligence, mental discipline, physical toughness, and a constant commitment to teamwork,” Lee continued. “I congratulate and honor each of you, and hope to leave you with this most important message of all … always put safety first, and to that rule, there can be no exceptions.”

The ceremony was held at Pickett Park inside Fort Barfoot in Blackstone.