Potomac Edison, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., has completed a new training facility at its Williamsport, Maryland, headquarters, which includes an outdoor pole climbing yard and new classrooms. The new areas will be used to train students studying to become line workers through the company's Power Systems Institute (PSI) program and by current Potomac Edison personnel for on-going training and instruction.
As part of this $800,000 project, indoor storage areas were converted to a 5,000 square foot training facility and an outdoor area was transformed into the climbing yard. Work began in February and was completed in August.
The PSI program is a utility training partnership with Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The students split their week learning hands-on utility skills at the new Potomac Edison facility along with technical coursework at Blue Ridge College classrooms.
"The outdoor climbing yard is designed to help students hone their pole-climbing techniques and learn fundamental job skills such as repairing cross arms and hanging transformers," said James A. Sears, Jr., president of FirstEnergy's Maryland operations and vice president of Potomac Edison. "This modern facility also provides flexible classroom space for everything from large group lectures to one-on-one, hands-on sessions with our expert instructors."
The outdoor climbing yard provides a realistic learning environment for instructors to teach students how to climb poles, tie knots for rigging, string conductor and work as a team. The yard has 17 poles of varying heights to test students as their skills progress. For example, some poles have cross arms attached near the ground so instructors can stand directly behind students and talk them through tasks. Other poles have equipment positioned near the top, allowing students to practice repairs high off the ground. In the near future, a steel transmission tower will be added to the yard for additional training opportunities.
A second yard is planned, and will feature full-scale utility equipment that can be energized to mimic conditions in the field.
The new classrooms are separated by a folding wall, contain numerous white boards, and feature 12-foot ceilings and double doors to accommodate large pieces of electrical equipment, such as transformers.
PSI is a two-year educational program originally developed by FirstEnergy in 2000 to help train new utility line and substation workers. Currently, more than 300 students are enrolled in PSI programs at 12 schools in FirstEnergy's Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia service areas, including 15 students enrolled in the program at Blue Ridge College.