Story and Photos by Bill Sherrod, Editor of Cooperative Living Magazine
*Article republished with permission
Students in the inaugural class of Southside Virginia Community College’s (SVCC) new Power Line Worker Training School have finished the first phase of their higher education.
Class members, who completed the course May 12, spent most of the 11-week session at a higher level than most folks — specifically, working and learning at the top of 40- to 65-foot utility poles.
Upon completing the course, the students earned numerous credentials and certifications, including a Power Line Worker credential from the National Center for
Construction Education and Research (NCCER), a nationally recognized training and credentialing program for the building trades.
The SVCC students also earned a commercial driver’s license, CPR certification and an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) card. These and other earned credentials give the 11 graduates a distinct “leg up” in competing for electric line-worker positions.
The concept for a power line-worker training school was born of necessity. With an aging line-worker corps, there is a looming shortage of skilled electric-utility line workers.
FROM CONCEPT TO CLASS IN LESS THAN A YEAR
This first graduating class is the culmination of an effort that began in April 2015 and was spearheaded by a variety of agencies and organizations, including Virginia’s consumer-owned electric cooperatives.
A grant from the Virginia Community College System’s Equipment Trust Fund provided seed money to begin planning the Power Line Worker Training Program at SVCC’s Occupational/Technical Training Center, located at Pickett Park, site of former U.S. Army base Fort Pickett near Blackstone.
And the Power Line Worker Training Program was one of five successful entries in the first Governor’s Competition for Talent Solutions, announced last fall. The school benefited from a $200,000 matching incentive grant intended to provide new workforce-training options and develop the state’s rural economy as part of the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative.
To these grants, Virginia’s electric cooperatives contributed additional funding, material and expertise to get the school started. It went from concept to class in less than 12 months, with the initial class members beginning their training on March 1.
Lead instructor for the inaugural course was Clyde Robertson, a retired line worker with more than 41 years of experience working for Southside Electric Cooperative. He was assisted by Brad Wike, also a retired line worker with experience in a variety of electric-utility areas from transmission-line work to helicopter-assisted line work.
- VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois offers his take on the Line Worker program’s success so far and its potential to boost educational attainment in Virginia’s Rural Horseshoe.
- Richard G. Johnstone Jr., executive editor of Cooperative Living, shares his thoughts on how those involved in the project took a great idea and made it better.
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