Tri-County Tech’s Powerline Worker Program taking careers to new heights
It’s an in-person interview, only 35 feet off the ground with an audience.
Tri-County Technical College held its Powerline Workers Rodeo recently at the school’s Anderson Campus as 10 students performed aerial framing and pole top rescues while representatives of Duke Energy, Pike Electric, Blue Ridge Electric Co-op and other potential employers looked on.
“Really, it’s an in-person interview,” said Ron Bryant, Director of the Transportation Division at Tri-County Technical College. “We have the resumes on the table, they have their shirts on with their names on their backs, our employers show up and they can see what (students) can really do.”
The only powerline worker program in the Upstate and one of only three in South Carolina, the Tri-County Tech program tries to give its students a leg up by teaching dual skills to make them more marketable, Bryant said. The program also relies on the industry know-how of course instructor James Guthrie, who spent more than 30 years as a lineman.
“What we’re able to do is couple our powerline with our CDL, so now we’ve got a powerline worker that has a commercial driver’s license and that’s almost a hundred percent hire because that answers the mail for these individuals,” said Bryant, who oversees the CDL, heavy equipment and powerline programs.
Tri-County Tech’s Powerline Worker Certification Program is a 12-week course that graduates six to 10 students per class. Students can invest another five weeks to gain a CDL. Those landing a job after completion of the program can start out making $16.50 to $22.50 per hour, according to program officials.
The program also partners with organizations such as Goodwill to offer financial and scholarship assistance.
“The idea is to help people achieve a certification in a job field that allows them to acquire employment that pays families sustaining wages and gives them a path up and a profession, and that’s what this power lineman program does,” said Goodwill’s Patrick Michaels.
Todd Stevenson, Anderson Area Supervisor for Duke Energy, said he believes that skills rodeos like the one held at Tri- County Tech is one of the best ways to find good candidates.
“It takes a unique individual to be a lineman,” Stevenson said. “It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s 24/7 through the year. If they went through the school and they’ve lasted, then you know they’re in it for the long haul. It’s not something easy that you can just come out here and do. I think this is a great program. I know the instructor here personally. I’ve worked with him throughout my career. It’s a great program for somebody that wants to get into our industry.”
For students, a job that allows them to work outside and experience something different each day are reasons they enrolled in the powerline worker program.
“I’ve kind of known I wanted to do this my whole life,” said Sully Mosley, a student from Chapin. “I’m 22 now. I did some other work previously and it all kind of seemed to lead me back to it. For me, I like being outside,
working with my hands and I also like a little element of ‘what am I going to do today?’ It’s always something different. That’s what I enjoy about it.”
Seth Griffin of Abbeville enrolled in the powerline program on the recommendation of a friend.
“One of my friends came through this class and I decided to come through it, too,” Griffin said. “I’m hoping to land a job with a contractor or co-op back in Abbeville or Greenwood.”
Devin Lynch of Greer said he, too, enrolled in the program on the recommendation of friends.
“If you like working outside, it’s a good program,” Lynch said. “They’ve got a good instructor, James Guthrie. He’s been in there for a little while and he knows what he’s doing.”
For more information on the Power Line Worker Certification Program at Tri-County Technical College, call (864) 646-1700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.