Power Line Program Changes Lives
Date: November 4, 2022
Contact: Lisa Garrett, email@example.com
(By Lisa Garrett)
Power Line Program Changes Lives
PENDLETON, SC – At age 30, Justin Pressley says his life is on track in every aspect -- professionally, personally, financially. But everything didn’t start to fall into place until he discovered the Power Line Worker training program, initially funded through a $1 million Duke Energy workforce development grant across the state and now offered at no cost through workforce scholarships and support from grants and local business and industry partners.
Pressley, who completed the program in 2020 as well as the Commercial Drivers’ License (CDL) training in 2021, free of charge, now is a lineman apprentice with Duke Energy at its Clemson Operations Facility. “This career is so satisfying and rewarding and challenging. And life changing,” he added.
The Navy Seal veteran had no prior experience before entering the utility field. After graduating from Westside High School, he attended The Citadel on a full Army ROTC scholarship for one year and then enlisted in the Navy. After five years, he didn’t re-enlist and came back to his hometown of Anderson and began working in a variety of jobs in manufacturing, sales and the food service industry. “I bounced around. I was unsure of what I wanted to do. I didn’t have any direction.”
His best friend worked as a journeyman for Duke and told him about TCTC’s 12-week Power Line Worker training program, offered through the Corporate and Community Education Division. 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, including the utility line worker.
TCTC offers more than 40 workforce training programs that can lead to an industry-recognized credential and/or certificate in 16 weeks or less. Training costs, along with any required course materials and assessments, are covered by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. These Workforce Scholarships for the Future address critical workforce shortages in industries like manufacturing and health care through high-quality, affordable education at the state’s 16 technical colleges.
Pressley earned the CDL license (funded through GEER) in 2020. He also completed the power line worker training. funded through a workforce scholarship and an Evolve grant.
“I knew the minute I was on that pole and in that bucket that I was at home. I had found my calling,” said Pressley.
There are so many pluses to the profession, he said. “The pay is great and the people are wonderful. Duke’s Clemson facility is a great environment from top to bottom. I learn from my supervisor, Sandy, who also is a veteran, every day. The leadership stands behind you.”
The work schedule is five days a week, eight hours a day with the exception of power outages, and allows for work-life balance, which is important to Pressley, who is a father of two.
He enjoys the challenges of the career. “You really have to use critical thinking skills when troubleshooting, but it is so much fun. I’m not going anywhere. This will be a lifelong career.”
“What stands out about Justin is his integrity, his desire to be a team player and his love of the community,” said Emily DeRoberts, Duke Energy’s district manager of government and community relations. “He is intelligent and knows that safety is paramount. He gets the job done and done safely.”
She emphasized that retirements will create workforce shortages leading to the need for more lineman. “As Duke Energy modernizes the grid and integrates new technologies to better serve customers, the need for a skilled workforce is rapidly growing. Line workers play an integral role in a more efficient, more reliable digital grid,” said DeRoberts.
“We are recruiting to increase the talent pipeline and we want our workforce to reflect the customers we serve. That includes more females.”
DeRoberts, who has been with Duke for 35 years, said she was elated when she spotted 19-year old Hannah Loffler, the only female competing at a power line rodeo. It reminded her of the 1980’s when she was just one of two females recruited by Duke to work as substation technicians after she received an Electronics Engineering Technology degree.
Loffler was working for a landscape design company when she heard about the CDL program and consequently discovered the power line program. She realized it was an opportunity she couldn’t dismiss. Her CDL and power line training was paid for by a workforce scholarship and GEER funds. “This program really opened doors for me. Today, as a line worker for Sumter Utilities, I’m doing something I’ve never done before and loving every minute of it. I’m leaving TCTC debt-free and with skills for a lifelong career. It was so cool to meet Ms. DeRoberts and to hear her story and the job opportunities that are available today,” said Loffler.
Another reason Loffler was drawn to the career is the idea of helping someone in need. “My family runs a non-profit food pantry, The Gleaning House, in Pickens, so helping people is a big deal for me. I can use my CDL license to transport donations.”
DeRoberts agrees that there are personal rewards associated with the job. “My first job at Duke appealed to me because it involved doing something that matters. We need more Justins and Hannahs,” said DeRoberts, who will retire May 1, 2023. “We must be prepared for projects going forward. Duke’s partnership with TCTC is integral to training the workforce of tomorrow. I want to see others be successful. I want to do my part and leave Duke better than I found it.”
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. To learn more, visit tctc.edu.