McAuliffe announces launch of new power line worker program

Published 5:33 pm Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Tuesday that early this year, Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) will begin offering a new Power Line Worker Training Program designed to address the projected critical shortage of skilled electric utility line workers in Virginia.

This program, which will involve 11 weeks of intensive classroom and hands-on training, will prepare its graduates for employment as apprentice line workers at electric utilities.

SVCC’s new program was one of five successful entries in the first Governor’s Competition for Talent Solutions, announced in the fall.

The Power Line Worker Training Program will benefit from a $200,000 matching incentive grant from the commonwealth intended to provide new workforce training options and develop Virginia’s economy.

Speaking about the announcement, McAuliffe said, “Talent Solutions grants and the new Power Line Worker Program exemplify the Commonwealth’s commitment to building a demand-driven workforce system.

“We’re excited about the innovative solutions generated by these grants, and we look forward to working together with our community colleges and the private sector to train a new generation of highly skilled workers who will help us build a new Virginia economy.”

The electric cooperatives in the commonwealth partnered to create a shared training program and collectively supported that program.

They provided donations of materials and equipment, financial support and technical advice on how to design the program and set up the training yard.

“We literally could not have gotten this line worker program going without the strong support of Virginia’s electric cooperatives,” said Keith Harkins, vice president of workforce and continuing education for SVCC.

“The way they got behind this worthy cause so strongly and so quickly was a sight to see.”

Virginia’s 13 consumer-owned electric cooperatives partnered with the governor’s office and community colleges on the pre-apprentice training to replace the wave of retirements expected in the industry over the next few years.

Southside Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Crewe, developed a prototype “Day in the Life of a Lineman” program with local schools. The program served as a springboard to spark interest among young people in careers as line workers.

“Supporting our communities is what co-ops are all about,” noted Southside Electric Cooperative President and CEO Jeffrey S. Edwards. “We have been very gratified at the response among high school students, who want challenging, rewarding careers that will allow them to remain in Southside Virginia.