Wisconsin Power and Light Co. (WPL), an Alliant Energy company, will provide a $50,000 grant to the Blackhawk Technical College Foundation that will double the size of the college’s Electric Power Distribution Program. The grant was officially presented to Blackhawk Technical College officials at a ceremony this week held in the college’s Student Services Center building atrium.
Alliant Energy’s financial support will allow Blackhawk Technical College to add an additional session for the program and support the hiring of an instructor to teach the new afternoon class. Alliant Energy has also agreed to supply nine, 40-foot electric poles and to help the college find a part-time lab assistant among its retiree group for the program.
“Alliant Energy strongly supports the occupational training goals of Blackhawk Technical College and we see great value in expanding high-quality educational offerings like the Electric Power Distribution Program,” said John Kratchmer, WPL vice president of Energy Delivery. “Electric utilities continue to need apprentice line technicians and increasing the number of students in this program will be of great benefit to businesses and to the young people that will start down the path of an exciting and lucrative career.”
The $50,000 Alliant Energy grant will provide the opportunity for Blackhawk Technical College to add a second parallel session to the Electric Power Distribution Program. The new class will take place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily, following the same schedule and curriculum as the current morning session. Like the morning session, the afternoon session will have 18 students, thereby giving the college the ability to train 36 people at the same time, which will help greatly in alleviating the waiting list of applicants for the program.
“We are delighted that Alliant Energy is providing funding to expand our Electric Power Distribution Program and the training opportunities for people in Rock and Green Counties,” said Eric Larson, president of Blackhawk Technical College. “We currently have about 50 people on the waiting list for the program and these additional dollars will assist more candidates in gaining access to a high-demand program and a great long-term career opportunity.”
Students that complete the two-semester Electric Power Distribution Program at Blackhawk Technical College can pursue a variety of careers. These include: electric utility lineman, cable maintenance technicians, equipment operators, telephone repairman, cable TV installers, line inspectors, substation operators or cable splicers.
“Alliant Energy believes in the strength and viability of the Rock County region,” said Anne Lutz, WPL Southeast regional director of Customer Operations. “This area’s success is built on a solid foundation of industrial know-how and entrepreneurial spirit and we want to support this area’s workforce training efforts.”
Alliant Energy and other utility companies are encouraging graduates of the program to join their businesses as apprentice line technicians, given that Wisconsin is experiencing a shortage of trained line technicians. Line technicians install, maintain and repair overhead and underground high voltage power lines and systems for the distribution and transmission of electrical power. It is not uncommon for apprentice line technicians to earn $48,000 to $60,000 annually and they can become journey line technicians and earn even more.
“With nearly 50 percent of Alliant Energy’s workforce being eligible to retire over the next 10 years, and with many of those individuals being in technical positions, our company sees firsthand the importance of supporting programs like these,” added Kratchmer. “As businesses, we must invest in education now to make sure we have a strong future workforce.”