Erin Campbell, Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives
While many businesses and brands at the Iowa State Fair focus on reaching as many people as possible, the Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives of Iowa took a different approach this year. “Our main goal was to engage students and their families with details about Iowa Youth Tour and electric cooperative careers,” remarked Dawn Sly-Terpstra, vice president of communications at Central Iowa Power Cooperative. New for 2019, Iowa’s generation and transmission cooperatives installed a cohesive booth designed with focused messaging engagement as part of their Iowa State Fair sponsorship of the 4-H exhibits building on the south side of the fairgrounds. “We’re committed to supporting the 4-H program; 4-H families are our cooperative member-owners and having a presence in the 4-H building is a natural fit for us,” said Angela Catton, member relations and development manager for Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative. “With the traffic in the building, the opportunity was ripe for young adult member engagement,” added Sly-Terpstra.
With that strategy in mind, the planning group introduced technology to generate qualified leads to Iowa’s electric distribution co-ops for follow-up. One side of the new booth display highlighted the Iowa Youth Tour student leadership program, featuring a video of the 2019 tour and several Youth Tour students who stopped by to chat with fairgoers about their experience. The other side of the new booth focused on cooperative careers and showcased NIPCO’s “Lineman 360” virtual reality video which featured safety and lineman basics.
“We’re committed to supporting the 4-H program; 4-H families are our cooperative member-owners and having a presence in the 4-H building is a natural fit for us,” said Angela Catton, member relations and development manager for Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative.
Electric co-op employees collected data from fairgoers via a digital survey available on two iPads in the booth. Students and others interested in learning more about Youth Tour 2020, scholarships, internships and co-op career opportunities entered their email and mailing information on the iPads. Based on the ZIP code entered, the survey was sent directly to the corresponding electric distribution co-op for local follow-up. “One of our goals this year was to send qualified leads to the local distribution co-ops to help generate interest in the Youth Tour program and in cooperative careers. We want students to know that local co-ops offer great career opportunities throughout rural Iowa,” remarked Ryan Cornelius, vice president of corporate relations for Corn Belt Power Cooperative.
Results were very promising, with 390 surveys completed during the fair. Nearly 70% of the survey applicants lived in or near rural electric co-op territory. Here’s the breakdown of interests from all surveys:
- College scholarships: 54%
- Youth Tour 2020: 32%
- Co-op careers: 29%
- Job shadow opportunities: 12%
- Internships: 11%
- Lineworker scholarships: 7%
Looking ahead to 2020, the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives of Iowa are excited to continue their sponsorship of the soon-to-be renovated Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H exhibits building.