Va.'s First Power Line Worker School
Virginia Co-ops Aid Launch of Commonwealth’s First Line Worker Training School
This coming March, Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) will debut a new pre-apprentice program designed to address the projected shortage of skilled electric utility line workers.
The Association and its Virginia member cooperatives played a key role in helping SVCC’s Power Line Worker Training School become a reality. Last June, representatives of Mecklenburg and Southside electric cooperatives, along with Association staff, met with Mary Jane Elkins, executive director of the SVCC Foundation, and Keith Harkins, SVCC’s vice president of workforce and continuing education. Together, attendees formalized a plan to use $320,000 in available funding from the Virginia Community College System’s Equipment Trust Fund as “seed money” to launch this new program through SVCC’s Occupational and Technical Center.
Soon after, MEC President & CEO John Lee and SEC President & CEO Jeff Edwards shared their vision with CEOs of Virginia’s 11 other member-owned electric cooperatives. All 13 co-ops committed to provide cash and/or in-kind donations over a five year period to help fund the purchase of additional needed equipment and supplies.
“The course curriculum will be from the National Center for Construction Education and Research and students will have the opportunity to earn several industry-recognized, stackable credentials,” Harkins explained.
The new program received another boost in October, when Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that the school was one of five winning entries in the first Governor’s Competition for Talent Solutions. “This competition exemplifies the Commonwealth’s commitment to building a demand-driven workforce system,” said Governor McAuliffe. “We’re excited about the innovative solutions put forth and look forward to working together to train a new generation of highly skilled talent.”
Association staff assisted SVCC with the successful program submission, which will provide a $200,000 matching incentive grant that contributes to the administration’s goal to provide new workforce training options and develop the state’s rural economy as part of the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative. The inaugural class for the 11-week Power Line Worker Training School will be held beginning March 1 at Pickett Park near Blackstone, and is already full. A second class is scheduled to begin in mid-July, with registration ongoing for future classes.
“Cooperatives strongly support workforce training in the communities we serve, and of course the training that will take place at this new school will help provide our cooperatives with a pool of excellent young candidates for line worker positions,” points out Rappahannock CEO Kent Farmer. “So it was a natural fit for Virginia’s electric cooperatives to support both the Rural Horseshoe Initiative that will impact all rural areas, and specifically this line worker school that will benefit our workforce.”
“Until now, young people have needed to travel outside Virginia to receive this training,” noted Jeff Edwards, adding that SEC has provided the “Day in the Life of a Lineman” program at several area high schools over the past year, has increasing interest among high school students considering this career option.
“This new program represents a perfect, mutually beneficial business and education partnership,” added John Lee. “Our cooperatives benefit from having well-trained and capable candidates to continue their tradition of excellent service, and the community benefits by offering an excellent career option.”
Prospective students interested in learning more about the Power Line Worker Training School may call (434) 292-3101.
--Report by Mary Howell, VMD Association Manager of Member & Public Relations.