CONTACT: Allan Sharrett
Mgr., Public & Member Relations
(800) 552-2118, ext. 3211
Crewe, Va. – Southside Electric Cooperative (SEC) recently completed a series of five career exploration events for high school students across its service territory, aptly named "A Day in the Life of an Electric Lineman." In partnership with area schools, the events were hosted from March through the end of May at each of SEC’s four district offices in Crewe, Dinwiddie, Powhatan and Altavista. Drawing nearly 80 participants from multiple high schools, students were given the opportunity to learn firsthand about potential careers in the electric utility industry.
The first of its kind in Virginia, the program is the brainchild of SEC President & CEO Jeff Edwards, who initially approached the co-op’s statewide trade association, the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC), about partnering to produce a pilot program last year. Hosted at VMDAEC’s lineman training school in Palmyra, Va., the initial event proved successful and prompted SEC to move forward in 2014 with a redesigned curriculum and expanded schedule to reach students across its 18-county footprint.
"The response to the program has been tremendous. Our five events have had an average attendance of about 15 students. Because of demand, we gladly scheduled two different dates at our Western District Office in Altavista," Edwards noted.
The product of extensive work by SEC Training Coordinator Carol Hutchinson, Line Technician Troy Burgess, and Line Technician Supervisor Brad Ashwell, the four-hour curriculum features a unique "role-play" introduction followed by a heart-pounding 22 minute video produced by Burgess that features fellow SEC linemen and a rare look at the power of electricity. The classroom portion of the program also includes a history of the profession, the day-to-day expectations for a line technician, the competitive pay and benefits, an examination of the job’s rigorous training and education requirements, as well as a look at the industry’s constant focus on safety. The students then enjoy a boxed lunch and some time to reflect before donning hard hats and safety glasses to begin the outdoor portion of the day.
"At each event the students have been very engaged throughout the day – their genuine enthusiasm is quite evident. We try to give them a well-rounded look at the work done by those who build and maintain our electric distribution lines, so they can better consider if they’re cut out for the life of a lineman. The
job isn’t for everyone, but it’s clear that the students all enjoy learning about their co-op, the electric utility industry and the unique aspects of the lineman’s calling," added Edwards.
As a current trustee on the board of the Virginia Rural Center and a recent member of the Workforce Development & K-12 Education subcommittee for the Governor’s Rural Jobs Council, Edwards sees the important role for co-ops to play in their communities when it comes to workforce development. "These are solid jobs, with competitive pay and benefits, and this fact isn’t necessarily being promoted or emphasized to our high school students. If we can inspire just one kid to realize a dream, it’s all worth it."
Following lunch, the students move outside where SEC linemen demonstrate the extensive climbing skills necessary for the job. Emphasizing safety, linemen quickly ascend and descend utility poles that have been installed specifically for training purposes, using special tools to add and remove equipment to simulate typical line work done in the field. Next, a tour of the co-op’s equipment storage yard gives students an opportunity to see the poles, wires, transformers and other electrical supplies commonly used by the co-op. SEC lineman then perform a utility "bucket truck" demonstration, highlighting the use of mechanically operated booms to reach the varying heights of electric distribution infrastructure across SEC’s 8,000 miles of line.
"We’re thankful to the many school systems that worked with us these last months to encourage students to attend our events — these are exactly the kinds of community partnerships that will benefit our young people, and expand their potential career options. With an increase in lineman retirements across Virginia and the nation over the next decade, it is an occupation that should be strongly considered. Especially if you enjoy being outdoors, this just may be the perfect job for you. Make no mistake, it is hard work; but it can be a very rewarding and fulfilling career path," noted Edwards.
SEC remains dedicated to improving the quality of life in the communities we serve. If you are a student, teacher or administrator and you are interested in this program for your school, please contact us today.
Headquartered in Crewe, Virginia, SEC is a member-owned distribution electric utility serving more than 45,000 members throughout southern and central Virginia. For more information about SEC, please visit us @ www.sec.coop, on Facebook @ www.fb.com/SouthsideElectric or Twitter: @SouthsideEC.
Western District Office (2 events held)
(Altavista) – 35 students in attendance
High Schools: Brookville,
Rustburg, Altavista, William
Campbell, Randolph Henry,
Bedford Science & Technology Center
Eastern District Office
(Dinwiddie) – 4 students in attendance
High Schools: Dinwiddie
Central District Office
(Crewe) – 15 students in attendance
High Schools: Nottoway,
Kenston Forest, Lunenburg Central
Northern District Office
(Powhatan) – 20 students in attendance
High Schools: Amelia, Amelia
Students from Nottoway H.S., Kenston Forest School and Lunenburg Central H.S. watch as SEC linemen demonstrate some of the many duties of the job — Line Technician Supervisor Brad Ashwell (atop pole), Line Technician Troy Burgess (on ground left) and Line Technician Jared Mayton (on ground right).
(Left to Right): SEC Line Technician Troy Burgess, Line Technician Supervisor Brad Ashwell, Line Technician Jared Mayton and Line Technician Supervisor Ricky Hux share the history of the profession in the classroom portion of the program in Crewe, which is part of the four-hour curriculum.
Students from Amelia HS, Amelia Academy and Powhatan HS watch as SEC Apprentice Linemen Will Southworth (far left) & Blake Poindexter (top) demonstrate some of the many skills necessary to become an electric utility line technician.
Apprentice Linemen Blake Poindexter (L) & Will Southworth (R) perform a bucket truck demonstration for students at SEC’s Northern District Office in Powhatan.
SEC Line Tech Supervisor Scott Diggs (far left) looks on as Line Tech Supervisor Brad Ashwell (far right) discusses harness safety during pole climbing with a student
Group photo of high school students from Brookneal, Altavista, Rustburg, & William Campbell with SEC Employees.
SEC recently hosted students from Bedford Science & Technology Center in Bedford Co. and Randolph Henry H.S. in Charlotte Co. for the coop's "Day in the Life of a Lineman" program @ the Altavista District Office. The day included indoor presentations as well as outside demos, where the students had a chance to don hard hats, climbing gear & practice activities that linemen do every day in the field. Aaron Payne, Electricity teacher at BSTC and Jim Pugh, RHHS Agriculture teacher, accompanied the students for the four-hour program. Pictured: SEC Lineman Dennis Bell explains to students the various tools of the trade.
Students from Dinwiddie High School enjoyed SEC's fourth "Day in the Life of a Lineman" event at the co-op's Eastern District Office on Wednesday. The day included indoor presentations as well as outside demo time, where the students had a chance to don hard hats, wear a climbing harness & practice several other activities linemen do every day in the field. Sherry Channell, John Tyler C.C. Career Coach @ DHS, accompanied the students for the 4-hour program.
Pictured: Instructors from SEC included (from far left) SEC Line Tech Supervisor Edward Bethel, Apprentice Line Tech Josh Krenicky, Line Tech Supervisor Brad Ashwell, Training Coordinator Carol Hutchinson & (far right) Line Technician Troy Burgess.