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Duke Energy Grant Allows Tri-County to Expand Power Lineworker Training Program to Meet Workforce Demands

CONTACT:  lgarrett@tctc.edu

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                  6/9/2020

(By Lisa Garrett)

PENDLETON --- The SC Technical College System Foundation awarded Tri-County Technical College a second year of funding from a $1 million Duke Energy grant to expand its power lineworker training program to meet workforce demands.

As Duke Energy and other utilities build the smart-thinking grid of the future, and the industry adapts to an aging workforce that will retire in coming years – thousands of jobs will be created and filled.  The backbone of the workforce is the certified utility lineworker. 

Last year, through the SC Technical College lineworker grant program, Tri-County Technical College received $200,000 to develop and implement a power lineworker training program. The grant covered start-up costs of the program, including equipment and faculty.

The 12-week power lineworker training program, offered through the College’s Corporate and Community Education Division, offers training on how to operate a bucket truck, along with pole climbing, pole top rescue, naming material, demo digging and setting poles, hanging insulators, switching and underground work. 

Initially, the program was only offered during the day.  The grant allows offerings now to include evening classes to accommodate individuals who are employed during the day.

Another goal for this year is to recruit more minorities and veterans.  The program has been added to the VA-approved training list which gives veterans a great opportunity to use their education and training benefits to transition into a great career with excellent salary and growth potential.

Since last fall the entire first graduating class of the program gained employment in the industry.  Sixty percent of the February 2020 class received employment offers before completing the program.

The power lineworker program curriculum includes American Heart Association/CPR First Aid training and courses in National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) core; OSHA-10 for Construction; Power Line Worker Level I Certification and modules out of Levels II and III and the Power Line Curriculum with the option of adding Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). 

 “Our curriculum is designed to prepare potential employees to meet the specific needs of employers in our area,” said Dr. Rick Cothran, dean of the Corporate and Community Education Division (CCE) at Tri-County. “We offer the power lineworker training in addition to the heavy equipment operator training and the existing truck driver (CDL) training. Our new outdoor career pathways through our QuickJobs programs can quickly put people to work in jobs paying a sustainable wage in high demand careers,” said Dr. Cothran.

“The utility industry is changing at a rapid pace and we must increase the talent pipeline for lineworkers here in South Carolina today to keep up,” said Mike Callahan, Duke Energy’s state president for South Carolina. “Investing in programs that recruit and train this valuable workforce will reap benefits for the industry both immediately and in the years to come.”

 At the end of the class, level I power lineworker students participate in a rodeo where they showcased their skills for potential employers who are looking to fill these in-demand job across the state.

These rodeos serve as a demonstration of the students’ power lineworker and heavy equipment skills obtained during their classroom and skills training.

“Rodeos are like a job interview, where students can demonstrate their skills and network with future employers,” said Dr. Cothran. 

“The goal is to connect students with employers now,” he added. 

“Employers see first hand that our students are marketable and what they have learned in their training,” added Julia Lee, training coordinator for CCE.     

 “The program is ideal for those who want a career with an excellent salary potential where they can work outdoors, as a team and enjoy a challenge,” said Timia Hunter, division recruiter and outreach program coordinator for CCE.

Many graduates go on to enroll in the CCE division’s five-week Commercial Drivers License A class to enhance their skills set by learning how to operate, drive and haul utility equipment making them even more employable, said Hunter.

 “Employers are happy and enthusiastic about both programs,” said Lee. “They praise instructor James Guthrie’s teaching skills and his emphasis on listening in the interest of safety for themselves and their partners, a good work ethic, and camaraderie and teamwork to get the job done,” she said.

If the student qualifies for a workforce scholarship, funded by the state, along with community partners such as SC Works and Vocational Rehabilitation, the tuition assistance can aid persons who are unable to afford the cost of training. Often there is very little out-of-pocket expense, said Hunter.

Classes are held Monday – Thursday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.  Evening hours are to be determined.

For more information about the power lineworker program, contact Julia Lee, training coordinator (transportation) for the Corporate and Community Education Division, jlee42@tctc.edu, 864-646-1707.

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About Tri-County Technical College

Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, industrial electronics, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities.