Lineworker Training Critical as Field Grows
Electric co-ops are dedicated to job training and safetyBy Chris Nault and Lola McBride
For electric lineworkers, safety starts long before the hard hat and insulated gloves are ever put on. It starts with classroom learning and hands-on training that provide lineworkers with the knowledge and skills critical for protecting them from danger as they build and maintain the electric system that powers everyday life.
Through a robust Job Training and Safety program shared by North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives, current and future lineworkers commit to putting safety first through new and continuing education courses at lineworker schools that feature cutting edge technologies for hands-on training, as well as classroom instruction.
“The business we’re in requires that safety is part of a lineworker’s DNA,” said Farris Leonard, director of Job Training and Safety for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “Our team is committed to facilitating that culture of safety in everything we do from training schools to our time working directly with cooperative teams.”
The program was created by the co-ops to provide training for lineworkers as they entered the field, as well as an important opportunity for academic advancement, as students can combine their job training with academic curriculum to graduate with an associate’s degree in two years.
Lineworker career field set to grow
Beyond the formal partnership with Nash Community College, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have worked with community colleges across the state on lineworker training programs and other workforce development initiatives for years.
“Many of these schools are located in the same rural areas where our co-ops are based, and they have a real impact on our communities and workforce” Leonard said.
Approximately 1,400 lineworkers serve North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives, and there are more than 120,000 electric lineworkers nationwide. The career field is rapidly expanding, and lineworker jobs are in demand across North Carolina and the nation.
“Consistent training programs will allow co-ops to have the same expectations for their lineworkers after completion and allow a smoother and safer transition into the field.”
Currently there are 10 lineworker schools in operation across North Carolina. While this number is expected to grow, Leonard says coordination will be key.
“A large percentage of the workforce has retired or will retire over the next several years, taking their knowledge and experience with them, which makes our focus on training and development even more important,” Leonard said.
“With coordination comes consistency,” he said. “Consistent training programs will allow co-ops to have the same expectations for their lineworkers after completion and allow a smoother and safer transition into the field.”
Patience and safety are key
This summer marks two years since leaders at James Sprunt Community College in Kenansville asked Leonard and his Job Training & Safety team for advice and information about the types of programming that would create a structured and disciplined training school for interested students.
To kick off the program for the third class of students, Leonard was invited to share his thoughts on how students can make the most of their time in the program. Noting that a steady, methodical pace allows for critical thinking, Leonard conveyed a simple and important message: “Be patient and relentlessly focused on safety.”
About the AuthorChris Nault and Lola McBride, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives
Lineworkers in training