Thousands of college-bound teens are leaving home this fall, still undecided on an academic major or career choice. Often, these students feel the need to go to a four-year university because it is what society or their families expects of them.
But here’s the reality: A bachelor’s degree isn’t for everyone.
And that’s OK.
Some people prefer to learn outside a classroom, or are reluctant to take on the significant debt often associated with a four-year degree.
As a line worker for Met-Ed, Paul Simser said he personally knows this to be true.
Simser chose to enroll in FirstEnergy’s Power Systems Institute (PSI) line worker training program at Reading Area Community College while many of his former high school classmates went off to four-year colleges and universities.
“I learned about this two-year program from an instructor at my electrical vocational school in high school, and liked that it combined classroom learning with hands-on training in the field with actual line crews,” he said.
Within two years, Simser earned his associate’s degree and immediately started his career at Met-Ed.
As baby boomers retire from skilled trades, the demand for trade workers, including line workers and substation electricians, continues to grow.
Skilled trades can be among some of the most satisfying and rewarding careers. After all, they often involve a lot of physical, hands-on work while still being very mentally engaging.
“My career at Met-Ed has afforded me the opportunity to travel all over the country and meet people from all walks of life,” Simser said.
He believes restoration of power is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, aspects of being a line worker. That’s because no two outages are identical, and he enjoys figuring out the cause of each outage and delivering the power people depend on each day.
Not all line workers at FirstEnergy, however, choose to enter the field right out of high school.
Ohio Edison line worker Todd Schafer began a career in the electric utility industry after spending more than a decade working as a paramedic, restaurateur and firefighter.
Although Schafer possess bachelor’s and master’s degrees, he chose to pursue a new career in line work because he values the stability his father’s job as an Ohio Edison line worker provided for his family while he grew up.
“When I was a life-flight paramedic, it was one of the greatest, most high adrenaline jobs out there, and a dream job for many people,” said Schafer.
“Switching careers at the age of 30 wasn’t easy to do, but my career as a lineman provides great benefits for my family and opportunities for me to grow within the company,” he said.
Both Simser and Schafer encourage high school students to explore career opportunities in skilled trades and discuss their options with their guidance counselors.
In addition to its line worker training program, PSI offers a substation program that trains aspiring substation electricians to construct, inspect and maintain equipment in substations.
Whether they are testing substation performance, constructing distribution lines for a new residential development or repairing damaged power lines after a storm, line workers and substation employees at FirstEnergy enjoy fast-paced and rewarding careers.
If you or someone you know is interested in pursuing a career as a line worker or substation electrician, check out the PSI program at www.firstenergycorp.com/PSI.