SVCC working to train future linemen

Published 3:33 pm Thursday, January 19, 2017

By Julia McCann

Special to

The K-V Dispatch

As an experienced workforce retires, the Power Line Worker Training School at Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) is working to address a need for trained labor.

“This program is important, not only because it provides Southside residents an opportunity for a rewarding lifelong career, (but) it also provides our industry partners well-trained employees who are ready to work,” said Keith Harkins, vice president for workforce and continuing education at SVCC.

According to Harkins, the program stemmed out of a town hall meeting at SVCC’s Keysville campus during which the CEOs of Southside Electric Cooperative and Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative stressed the need for qualified line worker candidates.

The program, which began in May, has already graduated 48 students in three cohorts. Of the first two cohorts, 29 of 30 graduates have full-time jobs in the industry. The school does not have employment data on the most recently graduated class of 18 students.

“Our instructors made us aware of potential job opportunities and employers,” said Noah Daniel, a program graduate from Lunenburg County, who now works for Lee Electrical in Farmville.

The program offers hands-on training in climbing techniques, electrical theory, aerial framing, rigging, operating utility service equipment, commercial driver’s license (CDL) and safety, according to SVCC.

“Overall, I feel very well-prepared for my current and future job in this field,” said Daniel who graduated from Central High School in Victoria in May. “I love everything about my job. I learn something new every day and look forward to moving up as a linesman.”

The program’s website cites the ability to work outdoors as a perk of the career. Daniel echoes these sentiments.

“Climbing was the most fun learning experience for me,” said Daniel. “I enjoyed everything I learned but many of us looked forward to climbing every day.”

Daniel mentioned that there are still areas for future improvement to the program. “The program has done a great job introducing us to the basics of being a safe powerline worker. I think it would be great if the college was provided more equipment to help introduce the students to different aspects of the job,” said Daniel.

In fact, the school is making improvements to the program this year.

“We recognized early on the long-term success of this program would rely on our ability to provide quality accommodations at a reasonable cost for our students,” said Harkins.

The Power Line Worker Training School is located at the SVCC Occupational Technical Center at Blackstone’s Pickett Park, site of the former U.S. Army base, Fort Pickett. As a solution to the student housing shortage, SVCC teamed up with Nottoway County which provided project management and financial assistance to remodel a county-owned building in Pickett Park.

“This unique partnership provides our students in the Power Line Worker program, Diesel Repair program, CDL program, and the Automotive Repair program, all located at the SVCC Occupational and Technical Center, access to housing for $14 per night,” said Harkins.

When asked about paying the tuition, Daniel said the school “does a lot to help students cover the cost,” including awarding scholarships.

Daniel, together with his parents, paid the difference. “The program at SVCC is much cheaper than other programs we checked into,” he said.

The next power line worker program, which runs from Feb. 27-May 5, is full. The next sessions are scheduled for June 19-Aug. 30 and Sept. 12-Nov. 21.

To learn more about the SVCC Power Line Worker Training School, visit or contact Susan Early at (434) 292-3101 or email