First Power Line Worker class graduates from SVCC

Published 8:31 am Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The first class of the highly anticipated 11-week Power Line Worker Program at Southside Virginia Community College graduated on Thursday, May 12.

The 11 students earned Level 1 certification from the National Center for Construction Education & Research, a commercial driver’s license, first aid and CPR certification and safety training.

The extensive hands-on training prepares the students for apprentice-level line work at electric utilities, and the program is promoted as a way to bring jobs at electric cooperatives into reach for those from the area not interested in attending college.

The comprehensive training includes pole climbing, pole-top rescue, power line repairs, electrical circuits, rigging, setting and pulling poles, electrical test equipment, and trenching, excavating and boring equipment. Prior to the graduation ceremony, students demonstrated pole climbing, rescues and other skills on the outdoor pole range.

The school is the first of its kind in Virginia and was founded earlier this year by a public-private partnership between Virginia’s electric co-ops, SVCC, the Virginia Community College System, Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative and the state.

“This type of skill and training is a building block to your future,” said state Sen. Frank Ruff, guest speaker at the graduation ceremony. He commended the partners for bringing the program “to our part of Virginia — it saves costs and keeps dollars in our economy.”

Indeed, when the program began, SVCC President Dr. Al Roberts noted that its establishment “is a shining example of the high level of partnership and collaboration that is required if we are to advance our local economies and meet the demands” of Virginia’s new economy.

Two of the graduates have accepted jobs with electric cooperatives and several others have had interview opportunities.

“This program is a wonderful example of how short-term training leading to an industry credential can result in a rewarding career,” said Keith Harkins, SVCC vice president of workforce development.

Clyde Robertson, an instructor and a 41-year veteran lineman, noted that this first class “set a high bar for the classes to follow.”

The second class begins on July 11 and is almost full, school officials said. An October class is also filling up.

The program is open to any high school graduate or GED recipient.